$10M federal lawsuit: “Russell Co. Schools turned “blind eye” to employee sexual misconduct”

Former Lebanon Elementary School head custodian Bobby Gobble confessed to more than 100 felony child sex crimes in 2014.

RUSSELL COUNTY, VA (WJHL)- The Russell County, Virginia School Board and two former school principals are facing a $10 million federal lawsuit over allegations that they failed to protect several students from being sexually abused over several years.

An attorney, working with one of the victims, filed the lawsuit on Dec. 8th. The lawsuit states that it stems from former Lebanon Elementary School Head Janitor Bobby Gobble’s 2014 confession that he sexually abused four boys over the course of at least 5 years. Gobble has since been sentenced to 70 years in prison.

The lawsuit primarily focuses on one victim, named John Doe, the school board and two people who were principals at Lebanon Elementary during the time of the abuse. The suit claims the board and principals turned a “blind eye” to Gobble’s sexual misconduct. It details several incidents of how Gobble was allegedly allowed unsupervised and unrestricted access to students and isolated areas of the school like the stock room and custodian closet where sexual abuse occurred.

The lawsuit claims the defendants failed to protect John Doe, who was nine-years-old when the abuse began in 2011. Court documents state, at one point, Gobble convinced John Doe’s guardian to allow the boy to live with him for a year. During that time, the lawsuit states John Doe suffered sexual abuse on an almost daily basis at Gobble’s home and at school. John Doe’s attorney, Monica Beck of The Fierberg National Law Group, PLLC, told News Channel 11 that school administrators dropped the ball in protecting her client. “The notice that was provided to school officials and employees that Gobble did have the student living with him, was taking him across state lines on trips. There was so much notice provided to school employees and the school basically just didn’t do anything to protect our client.”

The lawsuit also accuses the school board of failing to educate and train staff on how to identify and investigate sexual abuse. One principal is accused of failing to investigate reports of sexual harassment despite receiving a reminder from the federal government about a school’s independent obligation to do so.

News Channel 11 reached out to the Russell County superintendent who said the district had not been served with the lawsuit yet and did not have a comment. We also reached out to the school board chairman but as of Tuesday night, had not received a response. Gobble is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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