School Principal’s Immunity Claim Rejected in Child Sex Abuse Case

Immunity Claim
Lorena Independent School District principal April Jewell | Image by Lorena Independent School District

A federal judge has rejected the immunity claim of Lorena Independent School District principal April Jewell following allegations of negligence while handling the case of a teacher’s sexual abuse of a 5-year-old student during the 2020-21 academic year.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Alan Albright comes after Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Manske’s detailed report, which highlighted Jewell’s apparent failure to take action despite receiving multiple warnings from school staff. According to Texas Scorecard, multiple warnings surfaced about the inappropriate behavior of pre-K teacher Nicolas Scot Crenshaw towards young female students at Lorena Primary School.

Crenshaw, who eventually pleaded guilty to multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault of a young child and other sex crimes against the students, continued his abuse unchecked while Jewell retained her position as principal at the school, sparking criticism from concerned parents and community members.

The lawsuit, filed by the victim’s parents under pseudonyms to protect their daughter’s identity, accused Jewell and Lorena ISD of negligence in failing to protect the child from months of abuse. Court documents obtained by Texas Scorecard describe that despite numerous reports and photographic evidence of Crenshaw’s misconduct, Jewell allegedly failed to investigate or take appropriate action, allowing further abuse to persist.

In his report, Judge Manske condemned Jewell’s lack of executive action, stating that her failure to ensure the safety and well-being of her students “shocks the conscience.” He further emphasized that the right of a student to be protected from physical sexual abuse by a teacher has long been established, and Jewell’s inaction constituted a violation of this right.

Meanwhile, in the Lorena community, parents continue to express their shock and outrage over the handling of the case. Jessica Montez, a parent of a child attending Lorena Primary School, initiated an online petition demanding Jewell’s resignation as a step toward restoring confidence among parents and students in the community.

“The principal’s negligence has caused irreparable damage not only to the victims but also to our community’s faith in its educational system. We cannot allow this lack of responsibility and oversight to continue unaddressed, ” the petition read. “We demand immediate action: The resignation of this principal is necessary for healing and change within our school system. It would be a first step towards restoring confidence among parents and students alike.”

An upcoming school board meeting for Lorena Middle School, scheduled for June 10, will provide an opportunity for parents and community members to voice their concerns directly to district officials about the safety standards and hiring standards within the school district.

CORRECTION: This article was edited on June 4, 2024, at 4:45 p.m. to clarify that the judge rejected the immunity claim.

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