Parents claim Marion schools knew of risk child could be sexually abused by volunteer

Second lawsuit involves the same volunteer named in earlier action

A second Marion elementary teacher, along with the school district, is being sued by parents who claim their child was sexually abused by a Starry Elementary classroom volunteer in 2015. (Gazette file photo)
A second Marion elementary teacher, along with the school district, is being sued by parents who claim their child was sexually abused by a Starry Elementary classroom volunteer in 2015. (Gazette file photo)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Another Marion elementary teacher, along with the school district, is being sued by parents who claim their child was sexually abused by a classroom volunteer in 2015.

The child, five-years-old at the time of the abuse, was in teacher Sara Sievers’s kindergarten class at Starry Elementary and repeatedly was molested by the volunteer in August 2015, the suit claims. The volunteer is not named in the suit.

The following school year, between August and October 2016, the same volunteer was allowed to help in a neighboring classroom, taught by Diane Graham, and at least four other kindergartners also were the victims of repeated and ongoing sexual abuse by the volunteer, the suit filed in August states.

This suit refers to previous lawsuits filed by eight parents last year against Graham and the Marion Independent School District, claiming their four children were abused by volunteer Logan McMurrin, 15 years old at the time, who later was convicted of three counts of sexual abuse.

Three of the previous suits were settled by the district for $1.8 million. The fourth suit is settled but hasn’t been finalized at this time.

District officials were not available for comment because the schools were closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Graham, 59, was found not guilty last week by a Tama County jury of failing to report sexual abuse as a mandatory reporter. Her trial had been moved out of Linn based on pretrial publicity.

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Sievers testified during Graham’s trial that McMurrin volunteered for her in 2015 and she asked him to be removed after a week because of odd and immature behavior. She said one time she witnessed McMurrin pick up a child and put her on his hip, and another time he picked up a child and put her on his lap.

Sievers said she told him to put the children down in those instances.

The suit contends district officials should have known that the “volunteer presented a risk to children and was unfit to be selected and assigned.”

Sievers, during Graham’s trial, also testified she was surprised to see McMurrin in Graham’s classroom the next year because she had reported her concerns to the person who was in charge of the classroom volunteers. She also said she told Graham of the incidents.

The recent lawsuit claims the five-year-old started showing signs of emotional and physical trauma in the fall 2015, but her parents didn’t know that the volunteer was in the child’s class or that Sievers had asked he be removed.

District officials knew of the volunteer’s acts in Graham’s class as early as August 2016 but have never notified the parents who had children in Seivers’s class, the suit contends. In March, the plaintiffs in this suit learned from a plaintiff in the previous suit that McMurrin also had volunteered in Sievers’s class in 2015.

With guidance from the five-year-old’s counselor, the parents asked their child if the volunteer molested her and she confirmed he did, the suit states. The parents then reported the abuse to the Marion Police Department and the child was interviewed at St. Luke’s Protection Services.

The five-year-old continues to suffer from severe emotional distress, including but not limited to anxiety, emotional outbursts, physical aggression, nightmares and extreme agitation.

The lawsuit demands a trial and asks for damages from the school district and Sievers.

McMurrin, now 16, was sentenced to the Iowa State Training School for Boys in Eldora. He will remain there until age 18.

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Graham still is employed as a teacher but remains on administrative leave, according to a district statement last week.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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