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Charles Johnson Complaint March 5 2014

Charles Johnson Complaint March 5 2014

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Complaint filed against Charles Johnson, former Pritchardville Elementary School principal, and Beaufort County School District by four female district employees.
Complaint filed against Charles Johnson, former Pritchardville Elementary School principal, and Beaufort County School District by four female district employees.

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Published by: Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette on Jun 07, 2014
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STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA ) IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
COUNTY OF BEAUFORT
)
FOR THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
)
CASE N0.:2014-CP-{'/ Oc'.t!qc.
JANE DOE 1, JANE DOE 2, JANE
DOE 3, AND JANE DOE 4,
Plaintiffs,

BEAUFORT COUNTY SCHOOL
DISTRICT
Defendant.
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TO: THE DEFENDANT ABOVE-NAMED:
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YOU ARE HEREBY SUMMONED AND REQUIRED to Answer the Complaint in this
action, a copy of which is herewith served upon you, and to serve a copy of your Answer
thereto on the subscrbers at their ofce located at 321 East Bay Street, Post Offce Box
22437, Charleston, South Carolina 29413, within thirty (30
)
days of the service hereof under
the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, exclusive of the day of such service; and if you
fail to answer the Complaint within the time aforesaid, the Plaintiffs in this action will move
for entry of Default Judgent and apply to the Court for te relief sought therein.
PIERCE, HERNS, SLOAN & WILSON LLC
 2014
Charleston, South Carolina
3{5
, 2014
Beaufort, South Carolina
McDOUGALL LAW FIR LLC
Davis A. Witfeld-Cargile
McDougal Law Fir, LLC
115 Lady's Island Comons
P.O. Box 1336
Beaufort, SC 29901
(843) 379-7000
Attorneys for the Plainti
l
STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA ) IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
W
COUNTY OF BEAUFORT
) FOR THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
) CASE NO.: 2014-CP- .� ' - :;� ,.f.-'1 Y
)
JANE DOE 1, JANE DOE 2, JANE )
DOE 3, AND JANE DOE 4, )
Plaintifs,
Y.
)
)
)
¹
)
BEAUFORTCOUNTYSCHOOL )
DISTRICT )
Defendant.
)
)
)
COMPLAINT
(JURY TRIAL DEMANDEP) �
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Plaintiffs, Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, Jae Doe 3, and Jane Doe 4, by and through their
undersigned attoreys ad complaining of the Defendant above-named, would allege and
show unto the Court the following:
JRISDICTION AND VENUE
1. That Plaintiff Jane Doe 1 is a citizen of the State of South Carolina and a resident of
Charleston Couty.
2. Te Plaintiff Jane Doe 2 is a citizen of the State of South Carolina and a resident of
Beaufort County.
3. That Plaintif Jane Doe 3 is a citizen of the Stte of South Carolina and a resident of
Beaufort County.
4. That Plaintiff Jane Doe 4 is a citizen of the State of South Carolina and a resident of
Beaufort County.
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5. That Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, Jane Doe 3, and Jane Doe 4 ("Plaintiffs") were injured
between 2011 and 2013 in Beaufort County, South Carolina due to acts and omissions of the
Defendant.
6. That the Plaintifs are referred to in this public fling by pseudonym to maintain
confdentialit of their identity pursuant to S.C. Code A . § 16-3-730, which prohibits
publication of the names of victims of sexual conduct.
7. That the Defendant will be informed of the identity of the Plaintifs by separate
communication upon their agreement to maintain confdentiality of the inforation as to te
public record.
8. That upon information and belief, Defendat Beaufort County School Distrct
("BCSD") is a public school system. It is owned and operated by the state of South Carolina.
Furtherore, BCSD operates Pritchadville Elementary School located in Blufon, South
Carolina.
9. That the Court has personal jurisdiction over the parties hereto and subject matter
jurisdiction over the causes of action set forth herein.
10. That venue is proper in Beaufort County.
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS
11. Between 2011 and 2013, Plaintiffs became associated with Defendant BCSD at
Pritchard ville Elementary School in Blufon, South Carolina arising out of their desire to
educate elementary school aged children.
12. Prior to the Plaintifs' association with Pritchardville Efementay School, Defendant
BCSD hired Charles Johnson ("Johnson") as principal of Pritchardville Elementary School
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in 2010 when the school opened. Before his hire, Johnson was the assistant principal at
Robert Smalls Middle School in Beaufor, South Carolina fom 2006 to 2009.
13. By 2011, Defendant BCSD was aware that Johnson had sexually harassed multiple
women in his occupational setting, including other employees of BCSD, as well as persons
applying for teaching positions at Pritchadville Elementary School.
14. Upon information and belief, additional victims Jane Doe 5 through Jae Doe 100
were targeted at BCSD by Johnson and endured explicit and offensive sexual innuendo and
references toward them in their occupational setting.
15. From 2011 through 2013, Johnson took advantage of his occupation ad position of
authority over Plaintiffs by making explicit and ofensive sexual innuendo and references
towards them on multiple occasions. Johnson demanded that Plaintiffs' physically engage i
inappropriate activities and other sexual behaviors in his ofice. At all times, Plaintiffs'
stated that they were not interested, rebutting Johnson's sexual innuendo and threatening
behavior.
16. Johnson's unremitting explicit and offensive sexual innuendo and references toward
Plaintifs created a hostile and threatening environment at Prtchardville Elementary School
for each of them.
17. Plaintifs communicated Johnson's behavior to other teachers and personnel at
Pritchardville Elementay School who confirmed Johnson's predilection to make explicit
and offensive sexual innuendo and references towad female teachers, prospective teachers,
and staf at the school.
18. At all times, Defendant BCSD undertook only a perfnctory investigation of
ongoing complaints and comments surounding Johnson's inappropriate sexual behavior
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with adult females at Pritchardville Elementary School. It failed to seek information or
collect any statements concering the matter. It took no immediate remedial or corrective
action, despite unrelated allegations of sexual harassment ad abuse occurring under similar
circumstnces within the BCSD system.
19. Plaintiffs' attempts to expose Johnson's explicit and ofensive sexual innuendo and
references towards them failed due to Johnson's control and supervision over such
complaints and claims at Pritchardville Elementary School.
20. When Johnson was made aware of Plaintiffs' complaints against him, he threatened
their association with Pritchardville Elementary School, their careers, and their reputation by
making known his "revered" status in the community.
21. Johnson retaliated against Plaintiffs by requiring them to perform menial tasks i his
presence that were outside the scope of Plaintifs' occupation and/or review at Pritchardville
Elementary School, refsing to allow Plaintiffs to perform their job duties, and by forcing
Plaintiffs to come to Johnson's ofce solely for his own prurient interest.
22. Johnson's threats and retaliatory conduct was a product of his occupational motive
to remain Principal of Pritchardville Elementary School.
23. Johnson's unremitting explicit and offensive sexual innuendo and references toward
Plaintiffs occurred in multiple locations. Specifically, Johnson:
a. Regularly made inappropriate comments to Plaitifs about their clothing in
classrooms, in his offce, ad in storage closets;
b. Repeatedly glared at Plaintiffs while commenting for his prurient interest on
their physical appearance in hallways, classrooms, and in his ofice; and
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c. Upon information and belief engaged in voyeurism by means of peepholes,
video, and/or camera to view Plaintifs in restrooms and storage closets
without their consent.
24. Defendant BCSD allowed Johnson to remain U his position as principal at
Pritchardville Elementary School despite its knowledge of Johnson's proclivity to make
explicit and offensive sexual innuendo and references towards women who were employees,
prospective employees, and staf at BCSD.
25. At all times, Defendant BCSD failed to utilize accepted professional standards
appropriate for determining whether a man known to have proclivities towards his deviant,
prurient, and lascivious interests should remain in a position as principal at an elementary
school attended by young children and adult females.
26. In retaining Johnson as principal of Pritchardville Elementruy School, Defendant
BCSD violated its own written policies and procedures as well as accepted professional
standads commonly observed and applied in the field of public education.
27. Plaintiffs caused to be submitted to BCSD, pursuat to the South Carolina
Freedom of Information Act, a request for BCSD's personnel fle for Defendant Johnson,
and a request for all investigative notes and other documents pertaining to allegations
against Defendat Johnson ("FOI Request").
28. BCSD has failed to produce all of the documents requested in the FOI Request, in
violation of the letter and spirit of the law.
29. As a result of Defendant BCSD's retention of Johnson and as a result of Johnson's
actions towards Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs suffered injury, grief, trauma, extreme outrage, shock,
embarrassment, physical injury, and other damages.
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AS A FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
(Gross Negligence/egligence as to BCSD)
I
30. All allegations above are incorporated and repeated herein verbatim.

31. At all times relevant, Defendant BCSD and its employee, Johson were well-
informed, or should have been informed of BCSD's policies and procedures regarding
sexual harassment and the responsibilities of Defendant BCSD provided therein.
32. Defendant BCSD represented to Plaintiffs and other employees, faculty and staff
that Pritchardville Elementary School provided a safe, healthy and secure environment
for volunteers, employees, faculty, and staf. Through this representation, Defendant
BCSD assumed a duty to ensure that such an environment was provided to Plaintiffs'
under its own policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment.
33. Defendant BCSD acted grossly negligent, maliciously, willfully and wantonly,
and breached this duty to Plaintiffs by:
i. Failing to properly train and/or supervise its employees, faculty and staff
so as to insure that Plaintiffs were provided with adequate care and
protection from sexual harassment;
ii. Failing to implement the existing policies and procedures govering
sexual harassment in BCSD to ensure that employees, faculty, volunteers,
and staff, including Plaintiffs, were free from sexual harassment;
iii. Failing to implement measures to increase the mature, competent and
capable reception or administration of sexual harassment claims in BCSD;
tv. Failing to properly supervise Johnson, an employee Defendant BCS
D
knew or should have known possessed a proclivit to sexually harass adult
females at Pritchardville Elementary School;
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v. Failing at all times to pursue and investigate reports of sexual harassment
committed by Johnson;
V¡. Failing to have in place proper safeguards for whistleblowers that would
otherwise be reluctant to report allegations of sexual harassment
committed by employees ofBCSD, namely Johnson;
vii. Representing that its counselors were dependable and trustworthy and that
they were adequately equipped to properly investigate and pursue sexual
harassment claims at Pritchardville Elementary School when they were
not;
vm. Concealing or ignoring Johnson's sexual harassment of adult
females at Pritchardville Elementary School, naely Plaintiff;
ix. Failing to provide Plaintiffs with proper protection fom sexual
harassment when Defendant BCSD had notice of Johnson's propensity for
inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment;
x. Facilitating and/or creating an envirorent which subjected Plaintiffs to
harassment and emotional abuse by Johnson;
xi. Refsing at all times relevant to take a stand against the widespread and
well-known culture of sexual harassment perpetuated by Johnson at
Pritchardville Elementary School; and
xii. By any other particulars which may be shown at trial.
34. Decisions made by Defendant BCSD to ignore Johnson's violations of its own
harassment policy and to not report his behavior to proper authorities were actions taken
by BCSD agents and employees acting within the scope of their ofcial duty.
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35. Defendant BCSD's failure to properly educate, inform and enforce its own
policies and procedures on sexual harassment to employees, faculty and staff was the
proximate cause of Plaintiffs' injuries.
36. Because Defendant BCSD knew or should have known of the presence of sexual
harassment by Johnson against teachers, faculty and/or staff at Pritchardville Elementary
School, its failure to properly educate, inform and enforce its own policies ad
procedures to prevent the sexual harassment from reoccurring was willful, wanton, and
reckless.
37. By reason of the foregoing, Plaintiffs are entitled to recover damages for all
general and special damages proximately caused by Defendant BCSD's grossly
negligent, willful, wanton, reckless and careless acts and omissions, including punitive
damages.
AS A SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION
(egligent Supervision and Retention as to BCSD)
38. All allegations above are incororated and repeated herein verbatim.
39. In operating a public school system, Defendant BCSD undertook the duty to
exercise reasonable care in supervising and retaining employees, faculty and staff
entrusted with ensuring the safety and care of children and other employees, faculty and
staff under its own policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment.
40. Defendant BCSD owed the Plaintiffs a duty of care to exercise its right and ability
to monitor, supervise or otherwise control the conduct of employees, faculty and staff to
prevent the type of conduct outlined in its policies against sexual harassment.
41. Defendant BCSD acted negligently, grossly negligent, maliciously, willfully and
wantonly, and breached this duty with respect to the Plaintiffs by:
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Î. Failing to properly train and/or supervise its employees, faculty and staff
including Defendant Johnson so as to insure that Plaintiffs would be
provided with adequate protection under its sexual harassment policies and
procedures;
l1. Failing to enforce the implementation of those procedures outlined in its
own policies to increase the mature, competent and capable response to
allegations of sexual harassment in its schools;
iii. Failing to properly supervise Johnson while he was employed Û an
educator at BCSD and while on BCSD property despite knowledge of
and/or reason to know of Johnson's propensity to sexually harass other
employees, faculty and staff including Plaintiffs;
iv. Allowing Johnson to use BCSD property for engaging in inappropriate
conduct and the sexual harassment of Plaintiffs at Pritchardville
Elementary School;
v. Failing to record, investigate or maintain adequate records regarding
allegations of sexual harassment so as to provide a sufcient record of
such interactions to mitigate and prevent fture occurrences of sexual
harassment at BCSD;
vi. Failing to recognize those behaviors, methods and actions used by
Johnson to sexually harass other employees, faculty, volunteers, staff, and
adult females before and concurrent to Plaintiffs' injuries;
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v11. Facilitating and/or creating an environment which subj ected Plaintiffs and
other employees, faculty, volunteers and staff to sexual harassment by
BCSD employees, namely Johnson;
viii. Failing to report Johnson's inappropriate and/or harassing behavior to the
appropriate legal authorities, including but not limited to the Beaufort
County Sheriffs Office;
1x. Concealing or ignoring Johnson's sexual harassment of employees,
faculty, volunteers, and staff including Plaintiffs on BCSD property;
x. Failing to terminate Johnson despite knowledge that he was sexually
harassing other employees, faculty and/or staff as early as 20 I 0; and
x1. By any other particulars that may be shown at trial.
42. Plaintiffs were reasonably foreseeable victims of Defendant BCSD's failure to
control its employees, faculty, and staff, including Defendant Johnson under its sexual
harassment policies and procedures.
43. As a direct and proximate result of Defendant BCSD's consistent failure to
supervise its employees including Johnson and improperly retain him in its employ,
Plaintiffs were sexually harassed by Johnson throughout the entirety of their association
with Pritchardville Elementary School.
44. By reason of the foregoing, Plaintiffs are entitled to recover damages for all
general and special damages proximately caused by Defendant BCSD's grossly
negligent, willful, wanton, reckless and careless acts and omissions, including punitive
damages.
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AS A TIR CAUSE OF ACTION
(Outrage as to BCSD)
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45. All allegations above are incorporated and repeated herein verbatim.
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46. Defendant BCSD recklessly inflicted severe emotional distress on Plaintiffs and
were substantially certain that such distress would result fom its reckless conduct when it
deliberately failed to observe, adhere to, and enforce its own policies and procedures on
sexual harassment.
47. Defendant BCSD's conduct was so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all possible
bounds of decency and must be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized
community where the safety and professionalism of educators is essential to public
education in the community.
48. The actions of Defendant BCSD complained of herein caused Plaintiffs' severe
emotional distress including but not limited to persistent stress, trauma, outrage, shock,
embarrassment, routine anxiet, and extreme nervousness.
49. In continually failing to take action to protect Plaintiffs from Johnson's explicit and
offensive sexual innuendo and references towards them i accordance with their own
witten policies and procedures, Defendant BCSD heedlessly, recklessly, and
contemptuously disregarded Plaintiffs' emotional distress that was so severe no reasonable
woman could be expected to consistently endure it, particularly i an occupational setting.
50. By reason of the foregoing, Plaintiffs are entitled to recover damages for all general
and special damages proximately caused by Defendant BCSD's outrageous conduct as
embodied in the tort of outrage, including punitive damages.
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AS A FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION
(Declaratory Judgment, Injunction, Violation of Freedcm cf Infcrma||cn Ac|,
S.C. Code Ann., § 30-4-30; et seq.)
51. All allegations above are incorporated and repeated herein verbatim.
Æ
52. Plaintiffs have the right to inspect the materials and information specifed in the
FOIA Request, which are public records and not subject to any exemption specifed in
Section 30-4-40 of the South Carolina Code or otherwise.
53. Plaintiffs complied in all respects with Section 30-4-30 of the South Carolina
Code in submitting the FOIA Request.
54. Plaintiffs received a portion of the materials requested in the FOIA Request, but
Defendant BCSD has failed to fursh or make available the information requested in the
FOIA.
55. Accordingly, pursuant to Section 30-4-lOO(a) of the South Carolina Code,
Plaintiffs request a declaratory judgment that Defendant must produce or make available
the requested materials and information immediately.
56. Pursuant to Section 30-4-lOO(a), violation of Section 30-4-30 of the South
Carolina Code constitutes an irreparable injury for which no adequate remedy at law
exists. Consequently, Plaintiffs further demand the Court issue an immediate injunction
requiring Defendant to produce or make available to Plaintiffs the materials and
information set forth the FOIA Request.
57. Plaintiffs further request the Court to order Defendant to reimburse the Plaintiffs
for Plaintiffs' reasonable attoreys' fees and other costs of this litigation, as set forth in
Section 30-4-lOO(b) of the South Carolina Code.
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WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays fct a ttial 6y |uty ad for the followng.
i. Judgment against Defendant for actual and puntive damages in an amount to
be deterined by the jury;
ii. A declaratory ruling that Defendant have violated FOIA, and that Plaintiff is
entitled to the public documents requested in the FOIA Request, ad an
injunction requirng BCSD to provide to Plaintiff the documents requested in
the FOIA Rcqucst,
iii. For attorey fees and the costs of this action; and
iv. For such other and frther relief as this court deems just and proper.
¯��,2014
Chariest n, South Carolina
PIERCE, BERS, SLOAN & WILSON LLC
�p

 
E
arly  
Benjamin C. Smoot, II
Pierce, Hems, Sloa & Wilson LLC
321 East Bay Street (29401)
P.O. Box 22437 (29413)
Charleston, South Carolina
(843) 722-7733
Attoreys for the Plainti 
McDOUGALL LAW FIR LLC
�gall, II
Davis A. Whitfeld-Cargile
McDougall Law Firm, LLC
115 Lady's Island Commons
P.O. Box 1336
Beaufort, SC 29901
(843) 379-7000
Attoreys for the Plainti 
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