MARION — A day after students and parents raised concerns about a teacher returning to work this week after facing lawsuits over sexual abuse of kindergartners by a teen volunteer in her classroom, the Marion Independent School District issued a statement Friday saying Diane Graham was working “under her contract of employment and pursuant to her professional responsibilities.”
A jury acquitted Graham in January of the simple misdemeanor charge of failing to report the 2016 child sex abuse in her Starry Elementary classroom. The teen volunteer, Logan McMurrin, was convicted last year in juvenile court of three counts of second-degree sexual abuse.
Graham had been on paid leave, but returned to work Thursday, this time at Vernon Middle School to work with fifth- and sixth-graders.
The school district has settled four lawsuits against her and the district for a total of $2.7 million. Two other lawsuits relating to the sexual abuse are pending, though one names a different Marion Independent teacher.
“A jury of Ms. Graham’s peers found her not guilty of the allegations that she failed to meet her legal duties as a mandatory reporter,” said the statement released Friday by Stephanie Viner, superintendent secretary. “The District respects the jury’s findings.
“Moreover, the District made no admission of liability in any settlement with any party. As we previously stated, the District and its insurance carrier believed it was in the best interests of the students and families involved, as well as the rest of the District’s students and staff to resolve those cases to avoid prolonged litigation.”
A moveon.org petition asking Superintendent Chris Dyer to reconsider Graham’s return had collected more than 200 signatures as of Friday morning. Additionally, a protest of Graham’s return to work drew more than a dozen protesters at Marion High School Friday afternoon.
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Mark Gaffey, 20, and Riane Novak, 18, both Marion High School graduates, planned the protest. They said they’re still concerned for student safety.
Gaffey said he hopes the protest will cause the district to better inform the community about issues like this one.
“I think they need to change their actions. I think they need to let the public know what’s going on in the future when this happens. I think they need to let parents know what happens in the future,” Gaffey said.
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