Lawsuit filed against Frenchtown School District over alleged teacher molestation

The parents of a former student have filed a federal Title IX lawsuit against Frenchtown School district and its superintendent, saying they did not take adequate steps to protect her from being sexually harassed and assaulted by a teacher.

The lawsuit also said the school did not take steps to address harassment the girl reportedly experienced after her allegations against the teacher became public.

The girl is also involved in the criminal case against teacher Troy Bashor, who is accused of molesting her.

In late October, Bashor was charged with one count of misdemeanor sexual assault, and last month pleaded not guilty during his first court appearance. His next hearing, a routine appearance where further deadlines will be set, is scheduled for Jan. 17.

After the criminal charge was filed, the school district announced that Bashor was placed on paid administrative leave indefinitely, and confirmed Wednesday that is still his status.

According to records in the criminal case, the girl told sheriff’s office investigators that Bashor touched her inappropriately over her clothing during the course of more than a year, and had lifted up her shirt and touched her belly button. She also said that in December 2016, Bashor grabbed her buttocks and put his hands up her shirt while she was working to take down the set of a school play. In that incident, the girl reported that Bashor also attempted to kiss her.

While allegations against Bashor make up a significant portion of the federal Title IX complaint that was filed last week, that action and the criminal case are distinct court matters, and Bashor is not named as a party in the lawsuit.

In the federal lawsuit, the girl and her parents are represented by attorney Mike Meloy — the same lawyer representing author Jon Krakauer in a legal fight with the state’s Commissioner of Higher Education over records related to sexual assault investigations — and Colorado-based John Clune, who specializes in prominent Title IX cases. 

On Wednesday, Frenchtown Superintendent Randy Cline and attorney Bea Kaleva, who represents the school district, said they had not been served with a copy of the lawsuit yet and declined to comment.

In addition to allegations that were also raised in the criminal case, the lawsuit said the school did not take adequate steps to protect the girl and other female students from Bashor after it had received a complaint from another student years earlier that Bashor had been inappropriately touching her.

The suit said that by failing to address that complaint, the district created an unsafe educational environment and was partly to blame for the girl’s eventual sexual harassment and assault by Bashor.

According to the lawsuit, Bashor engaged in “grooming” behaviors with the girl, repeatedly texting and hugging her, and discussing issues with his marriage.

Bashor also began to pay significant attention to the girl’s menstrual cycle after convincing her to tell him why she was leaving to go to the restroom. The lawsuit said Bashor’s attention to her period “became more disturbing” as the girl’s sophomore year progressed, including him allegedly telling her that her cramps would go away if she became pregnant, and also offering to massage her abdomen.

Bashor also convinced her to become a teacher’s aide for him, which meant she would be spending more time alone with him outside class, and tried to get her to sign up for a percussion class he taught. While she never signed up for the class, the lawsuit said when the next semester of school started, the class was on her schedule, and that Bashor would compliment her physical appearance in class.

After the December incident that is the primary basis of Bashor’s criminal charge, the lawsuit said the girl attempted to avoid Bashor but that he would call and text her, come to her locker at school, and try to find her in the hallways. The girl eventually left the school and her family moved away from Frenchtown.

In January, after hearing the girl’s allegations against Bashor as well as allegations from the other student who had previously complained about Bashor’s advances — who reported that his actions started again after the school talked to him — the district conducted an internal Title IX investigation.

According to Cline and a summary of the investigation he provided to the Missoulian, Bashor admitted giving students “side hugs” but said they were mutual, although he regretted doing them. The school’s investigation found Bashor had violated professional boundaries and put him on unpaid suspension for three days.

In a guest column published in the Missoulian in March, Cline said the district found a “significant discrepancy in the information” the girl in the lawsuit provided to Frenchtown, but when they tried to interview her she “refused to participate.”

The federal lawsuit said the girl went through many interviews with the district until the detective with the sheriff’s office investigating a criminal case against Bashor told the girl and her mother to stop meeting with the school, and that he would share his notes with the district. The lawsuit said when the district tried to meet with the girl again, her mother told them about the deputy’s instructions.

The lawsuit claims that Cline broke federal law both in writing the guest letter in the Missoulian and forwarding a copy of the Title IX investigation report to a Missoulian reporter, which it called breaches of her privacy rights and retaliation against her.

In March, the girl in the lawsuit and criminal case was granted an order of protection against Bashor that forbade him from having contact with her at the school or approaching her outside of school.

After receiving the order of protection, the lawsuit said the girl received a letter from the school district that in part told her to report any retaliation against her for making the complaint against Bashor immediately so the district could act on it, which the lawsuit termed a “promise they repeatedly failed to uphold.”

Over the following months, the lawsuit said the girl was bullied and threatened both at the school and over social media, and said that the school did nothing about it when she reported it to the administration.

The bullying behavior included several students telling her to kill herself, accusing her of lying and referring to her as a “slut,” the lawsuit said. It also said that other students moved their desks away from hers so that she sat alone, and that a teacher at the school told a class that the girl was trying to get attention.

When alerted to various threatening messages she received over social media, a principal at Frenchtown allegedly told the girl there was nothing he could do about such harassment. He also told her, when Bashor allegedly would stand outside her classrooms despite the restraining order forbidding him from doing so, that it was not the school’s job to enforce the court order, the lawsuit claims

The federal lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount of money in damages to the girl and her family. No further hearings regarding the suit had been set as of Wednesday.

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