Civil suit claims sex at Brevard school was ignored

Published On: Dec 23 2013 11:20:34 AM EST
WEST MELBOURNE, Fla. -

A civil lawsuit claims that a leader of Imagine Schools at West Melbourne ignored signs that a teacher at the school was engaging in a sexual relationship with a then-14-year-old boy.

“The school’s administration disregarded red flags, determined that the accusations were unfounded in order to serve their interests,” the lawsuit says, and “failed to document and report ... despite their legal duty to report.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Orlando in August, is seeking unspecified damages from Imagine Schools, the charter school management company of Imagine Schools at West Melbourne, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

A spokeswoman for Imagine Schools declined to comment on the case. “We are responding through the court system, as is appropriate in the legal process,” spokeswoman Rhonda Cagle said. “Because there is active litigation involved, we’re not able to make any further statements at this time.”

The school is publicly funded but privately operated, including hiring and firing decisions. Brevard Public Schools is not named in the lawsuit.

An attorney for the teen’s mother, who is filing the lawsuit on behalf of the teen, also declined to comment. Florida Today and Local 6 are not identifying the plaintiff because it would identify her son.

The lawsuit claims that Irene Khan engaged in a sexual relationship with an eighth-grade student, gave him passing grades without requiring him to complete classroom work or homework, and paid for “at least six tattoos to be performed” on the teen.

In addition, it claims that Khan employed the teen to sell marijuana she provided him, regularly purchased alcohol for the youth, and allowed him to drive her car despite the teen not having a driver’s license.

The lawsuit alleges that, around September 2011, another student witnessed inappropriate behavior by Khan and reported it to the school. Also around that time, the lawsuit says, a teacher reported suspicions of Khan abusing the teen to then-Principal Shannon Gerbi.

“Although she conducted a brief informal investigation, Gerbi failed to report the allegations to the Department of Children and Families and/or failed to notify (the teen’s) parents, record or document the teacher’s allegations and/or failed to take any other corrective actions,” it says.

Gerbi is now the director of curriculum at the school.

Khan was fired from the charter school in January 2012, but the lawsuit claims Khan continued to abuse the teen because of the school’s failure to report the abuse. It’s not clear why Khan was fired.

Florida law requires anyone to report known or suspected sexual abuse of children.

Certain professionals, such as physicians, nurses and school teachers, are required to provide their names to the abuse hotline.

According to the lawsuit, the teen became withdrawn, isolated and defiant. His parents grew suspicious, and the teen eventually disclosed the relationship to his mother.

Six months after her termination, West Melbourne Police arrested Khan in June 2012.

Khan is facing eight felony charges: one count of sexual activity with a minor by a person in custodial authority and one count of lewd or lascivious molestation, both of which are first-degree felonies; and six counts of lewd or lascivious battery, which are second-degree felonies.

Conviction of a first-degree felony are punishable with up to 30 years, and a secondary degree felony with up to 15 years.

Attorney Richard Austin, who is representing Khan in the criminal case, declined to comment.

Assistant State Attorney Julia Lynch said the criminal case is in the midst of depositions. No trial date has been set.

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