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James Clemens High School

Former James Clemens basketball player files lawsuit claiming sexual abuse by former coach

MCS superintendent Robby Parker also listed as a defendant

MADISON – A former James Clemens basketball student has filed a federal lawsuit against her former coach and the Madison Superintendent of Education. The lawsuit claims she suffered sexual harassment and abuse by her former coach, Phillip Dewayne Perkins, and that Madison City Schools Superintendent Robby Parker knew about the allegations but failed to take proper action.

The student is claiming Perkins began harassing her in 2017 when she was 14 years old. The student is still a minor and identified only as Jane Doe in the suit. She played on Perkins’ junior varsity basketball team at James Clemens. He was also her history teacher that year.

“From nearly their first contact, Perkins went out of his way to single out and harass Doe both in practice and in the classroom,” the lawsuit states. “Perkins deliberately called out Doe in class in order to embarrass her in front of her classmates.”

It also stated that Perkins would do things to try to turn the other students against Doe, and described odd possessive behavior towards Doe by the coach.

“At various points in the semester, Perkins commented to Doe that she was ‘not allowed to talk to any boys,’ that she was ‘[his] and no one else’s,’ and that she was ‘not allowed to sit with any boys,” the complaint stated.  “During one incident, Perkins directed Doe to move away from two male classmates that she and two other teammates were socializing with on the gym bleachers. Perkins made Doe sit next to him while allowing her two female teammates to remain with the boys.”

The complaint in the lawsuits goes on to state that Perkins would touch Doe’s breasts at almost every practice she attended, and on several occasions her buttocks too.

“During practice, Perkins often played with the students, guarding the net. When Doe was playing offense during practices, Perkins always would choose to guard her and used his arm to brush up against her breasts,” the complaint said.

It continued by stating, “Because of Perkins’ unwanted sexual touching and infatuation, Doe was miserable both in and out of the classroom. Her grades slipped and her parents noticed a significant difference in their normally bright and happy daughter. Doe was often angry and defiant, and seemed withdrawn from her loved ones. She resorted to telling her parents basketball practice had been canceled in order to avoid being around Perkins and him touching her.”

One of the incidents described in the complaint centered on a confrontation Perkins had with Doe right after a basketball game in Jan. 2018. “Perkins called Doe out into the hallway alone outside of the locker room to supposedly talk to her about why she wanted to quit the team. Perkins told Doe that he was ‘harder’ on her than other players because he looked at her ‘differently,’ and saw her more as a friend than as a player. Distressed and frightened, Doe began crying and turned to go back into the locker room. As she turned, Perkins reached out and grabbed Doe’s butt. Doe ran into the locker room, quickly changed, and went straight to her family and collapsed sobbing into her mother’s arms.”

The lawsuit says that at the time Doe’s parents knew she was unhappy towards her coach, but didn’t know about the abuse Perkins was subjecting her to. It also said that Doe confided in a female coach that she was quitting the team after the season because she hated Perkins, but didn’t explain why and the female coach didn’t inquire about why.

“Doe’s lingering psychological damage from the past assaults took such a toll on her mental health that she began to feel suicidal,” the complaint said. “When Doe threatened suicide in June 2018, her parents took her to Decatur General Hospital, and she was soon transferred to inpatient care at Mountain View Hospital. There, she finally told a counselor about the abuse and harassment she had been suffering from Perkins.”

It said Mountain View contacted Madison County Department of Human Resources, who directed Doe and her family to the Children’s Advocacy Center. The suit says counselors told Doe and her family the incidents at James Clemens constituted a criminal offense and the Madison Police investigated the charges.

According to the complaint, a police detective spoke to MCS superintendent Robby Parker regarding the criminal allegations against Perkins in June 2018. “Parker told John Doe (Doe’s father) that Madison City Schools would conduct its own investigation into Perkins. In August 2018, Parker placed Perkins on indefinite administrative leave while the Madison City Police completed their investigation.”

The suit claims the Madison Police completed their investigation without ever speaking to Perkins. It also says the investigation by the Madison City Schools was completed as well without finding any evidence to support Doe’s claims against Perkins and he was reinstated.

The complaint says a second allegation against Perkins of inappropriate conduct with another student was alleged about two weeks after he was reinstated. “Perkins was again placed on leave for a period, but has been allowed to return and teach online classes.”

Because of the alleged abuse, Doe claims she had to transfer to another school, which may cause her to be ineligible to play basketball her senior year and miss out on potentially playing in college.

The suit also named Parker as a defendant, because it says he “negligently failed to properly train and supervise Defendant Perkins in his role as an educator and coach with Madison City Schools,” and that Parker “negligently failed to terminate Defendant Perkins upon notice of his abuse and assault of a student, leading to the further harassment of a second student.”

The suit says Doe continues to suffer from emotional and mental anguish, and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

The Madison City School System issued this response:

“Superintendent Parker and an employee of Madison City Schools have been served with a lawsuit brought by the parents of an anonymous student who has petitioned the Court not to have their identity disclosed.

“This matter was fully investigated in 2018 by Madison Police Department after a complaint was brought to them by the family.

“Madison City Schools also investigated the matter after learning of the complaint made to the Madison Police Department.

“Madison City Schools’ investigation included meetings with the family and interviews with students and faculty.

“The allegations of assault or other misconduct made at that time were not corroborated by either the Madison Police Department or the Madison City Schools’ investigation.

“Mr. Parker denies the allegations of the complaint and it will be vigorously defended.”

 

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