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Former Limestone student accuses teacher of sexual harassment

BARTONVILLE, Ill. - A former Limestone Community High School student has accused one of her former teachers of unwelcome sexual advances including groping and sexual harassment.

The lawsuit names the Limestone Community High School District No. 310 superintendent Allan Gresham, principal Jerolee Look and teacher William Wood as defendants. The federal lawsuit was filed against the teacher in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois Peoria Division on Sept. 19.

Eighteen-year-old Alex Menefee claims Wood has a long-standing history of making advancements toward female students, and she alleges he groped her buttocks several times around Jan. 5, 2017. The lawsuit claims he would make inappropriate comments about students' appearance, lean over desks to look down blouses and touch students' buttocks.

"When someone sends their child to school, that parent is trusting in the school to treat that child like their own child. That's the standard that legally, the school should be held to," Menefee’s attorney Nina Gougis said.

Gougis, as well as the lawsuit, stated Wood's actions were allegedly reported to district leaders, including Gresham and Look.

"As soon as it happened, my client reported it to the principal. The principal responded that she would talk to the teacher involved, back in January of 2017," Gougis said. 

The suit claims Wood, who is still employed with the district according the school's website, was once taken out of the classroom because of sexual harassment allegations, but that no effort was made by staff to prevent further harassment. 

Gougis said she has already received several statements regarding the case. 

"People, as they found out about the lawsuit [are] coming forward, and stating, 'Well my student experienced the same things at the hands of this certain teacher,'" Gougis said. "My understanding is that most of these, if not all of these, people that I've spoken with would be willing to testify." 

Superintendent of Limestone CUSD 310 Dr. Allan Gresham released the following statement Wednesday: 

The District is aware of the complaint filed against it.  This complaint is a personnel matter and the District does not have any comments on it at this time. 

In the documents, the former student says this contributed to an atmosphere where students did not feel comfortable reporting the teacher's inappropriate behavior. 

Menefee claims district leaders knew about or were deliberately indifferent to the risk the teacher posed to female students. 

The lawsuit claims Menefee has suffered severe emotional distress and is receiving counseling and therapy. It claims several counts against district leaders and the teacher, including Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Battery and Conspiracy to Deprive of Constitutional Rights. 

Menefee and her attorneys are asking for a jury trial.

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