GALLATIN, TN (WSMV) - A family has filed a lawsuit against the Sumner County Board of Education for failing to protect their son from sexual assault, battery and exploitation by a teacher.
The family claims the Sumner County Board of Education failed to protect the son from Robert Ring, a teacher at Shafer Middle School. Ring is also a defendant in the lawsuit.
“Sumner County failed our client and other students in their charge in the worst possible ways,” said Penny McElhaney, who is representing the family, in a news release. “The school board allowed a sexual predator to operate in their school district, even after receiving prior reports of inappropriate and sexually explicit conduct involving other students. The Board of Education abdicated their duty to keep their students safe. Our client continues to suffer because of the inexcusable actions of Robert Ring. We will fight to hold the responsible parties accountable under the law.”
Ring faced two criminal charges of aggravated sexual battery and simple assault last year. He accepted a plea bargain deal that let him off with three years of probation and community service, after which Ring can expunge his criminal record.
The victim was a student at Shafer Middle School and was in a social studies class taught by Ring.
Between April 1, 2019, and May 31, 2019, per the complaint, “Robert Ring used his position of authority to intentionally and with forethought groom [the victim] for sexual exploitation, sexual assault and sexual battery.”
Over this time, the complaint claims that Ring repeatedly asked the victim to “hang out” with him in his classroom alone, texted the victim with offers to save him from spending time in the gym during before-care, offered to help the victim to skip school so they could spend time together, invited the victim to his home when Ring’s family was not there, isolated the victim to have sexually explicit conversation with the child, including but not limited to describing sexual acts, offering sexual advice to the victim, and showing the victim sexual jokes on Ring’s phone, simulating masturbation and sexual acts to the victim, and found excuses to insist that the victim spend time alone and unsupervised in Ring’s classroom, including but not limited to assigning extra work to the victim and giving the victim lunch detentions.
Ring is also alleged to have encouraged to try drugs and alcohol.
The lawsuit seeks justice for the wrongs committed by Ring and the failure of the Board of Education to provide a safe and secure place for the victim to attend school. As a result of Ring’s sexual assault, battery and exploitation, the victim suffers with PTSD and nightmares. He is isolated, withdrawn, angry, humiliated and depressed.
“All this trauma and hurt, and all of it avoidable,” said McElhaney. “Sumner County allowed this predator to remain in a classroom, and our client has borne the brunt of his actions. It is our client who is hurt and afraid. We cannot, we will not, allow the culpable parties to avoid responsibility for the trauma they caused our client. The criminal justice system failed this child and our community. We will not.”