Kanawha School Board Sued Over Sexual Abuse Allegations

By: Brooks Jarosz Email
By: Brooks Jarosz Email

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Three students have filed suit against the Kanawha County School Board, claiming they were the victims of a sexual predator and the board did not take action to protect them.

The students claim they were sexually molested by their JROTC instructor, Edwin Smuda. Smuda came to South Charleston High School more than 15 year ago, but it wasn't until years later when he was arrested on sexual abuse charges. He later committed suicide.

Three separate lawsuits filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court accuse the school board of "doing nothing to stop the dangerous behavior," alleging Smuda had sexual tendencies toward the victims and groomed them to perform sexual acts.

The lawsuits claim administrators, teachers and parents had concerns about his interaction with young boys. One complaint in 2008 claimed Smuda "put whipped cream down the cadet's pants." Smuda was suspended with pay for one week following that incident but was then back at work.

In 2011 the three victims claim they had sexual encounters with Smuda. The suits detail private dinners, spending the night at his home in Dunbar along Grandview Drive, and even taking RV trips to Key West.

They blame the board saying, "the Board knew or should have known ..." and "the Board did nothing to investigate."

After one victim finally took a complaint to police, Smuda was arrested and charged. The board suspended him.

The suits say even after he was told to have no contact with the students, other ROTC leaders caught him with one of the victims. Smuda resigned from South Charleston High School and later committed suicide.

The three victims claim negligence and point at the board, accusing it of turning a blind eye.

WSAZ.com made repeated calls and left several messages to school board leaders. They did not return our calls Wednesday.

The victims claim negligent hiring and reckless conduct toward the board. Those cases already have been assigned to circuit judges in Kanawha County.

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