RUSSELL COUNTY, VA (WJHL)- The Russell County School Board and two former principals want a judge to dismiss a $10 million lawsuit against them that alleges they failed to protect a student from years of sexual abuse.
In 2014, former Lebanon Elementary head janitor Bobby Gobble was sentenced to 70 years in prison after he confessed and pleaded guilty to sexually abusing four boys over five years at Lebanon Elementary. The lawsuit primarily focuses on one victim, who was nine when the abuse began, according to the victim’s attorney.
Federal court documents filed last week show the defense is arguing the abuse happened off the campus of Lebanon Elementary in Gobble’s home, car, and at his farm. The defense also claims the plaintiff’s guardian allowed the student to live with Gobble.
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of giving Gobble unsupervised and unrestricted access to students and isolated areas of the school where the sexual abuse occurred. But in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the defense claims it is reasonable for a principal to allow a janitor access to the building for maintenance issues.
The lawsuit also accuses the school board and principals of turning a “blind eye” to Gobble’s sexual misconduct. In court documents, lawyers for the defendants argue that the principals did not have actual knowledge of Gobble’s inappropriate conduct. It also states that the former principals were not the “moving force” behind the primary victim’s sexual assault. The defense claims the moving force was the student’s legal guardian allowing Gobble to be the victim’s primary caretaker for more than a year.
Lawyers are expected to discuss the case with a judge during a conference call on Feb. 16 and set a trial date.
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