The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday on whether a former New London student can sue the school district for emotional problems caused by the sexual abuse of a teacher and track coach.
The district court ruled the case could go forward. The school district’s lawyer, Steve Ort, argues the case brought by the student in connection with the abuse by former teacher Gina Sisk was filed too late. The student known as Jane Doe, did not file her case until after learning of another case involving Sisk. Ort says the student was 18 at the time of the last abuse, and knew the relationship with Sisk was wrong.
Jane Doe’s attorney, Roxanne Conlin, says the statute of limitations didn’t begin to run until 2011 when her client discovered her mental problems were directly related to six years of sexual abuse by Sisk. Conlin says Jane Doe was still a child at the time and didn’t comprehend the overall damage done by the abuse.
Ort says he does not intend to blame Doe for the abuse, but says she should have reported what was going on at the time. Ort was asked if the case is similar to someone who was in a car accident and settles and then several years later goes back and says the damage was worse than they thought. He says it is similar.
Civil lawsuits involving Sisk and sexual abuse of students in the New London and Keokuk districts have been settled out of court.
The 46-year-old Sisk left the New London School District in 2006 and took a job teaching middle school and coaching track in Keokuk. She was put on paid administrative leave from the Keokuk School District two weeks after the first lawsuit was filed in March 2012. She resigned in June 2013.
The Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling on the case could take a couple of weeks.