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Former Port St. Lucie High School student sues teacher and school board for alleged sex references

2:45 PM, Nov 16, 2012   |    comments
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A former freshman at Port St. Lucie High School is suing Port St. Lucie high School math teacher Meri-Ann Johnson, school coach David Hentz and the St. Lucie County School board.

The teenager's lawyer, Gloria Seidule, said he claims last year, he was repeatedly exposed to sexually inappropriate behavior in Johnson's ninth-grade math class.

"An algebra teacher was using sex talk as a 'teaching tool'," said Seidule.

In a printed conference summary with last year's principal, Johnson signed off on an admission that she made an inappropriate remark regarding nudity, and that she put her shoe on the student's desk.

Seidule said her client, the former student, said Johnson said, "How about if I get naked?" Seidule said the student alleged Johnson "simulated" a strip tease in front of the classroom, and took off her shoe, and walked over and and slapped it on the top of (the student's) desk."

The summary shows Johnson admitted to using a sex reference explaining an algebraic concept, explaining the X + Y intercept, and the student alleges she also responded inappropriately after he requested to go to the water fountain.

"She responded, 'How about if I pour this water over my body and you can lick it off of me,' and then proceeded to simulate a sex act with the water bottle," said Seidule. "There should be a zero tolerance policy of anything sexual in the classroom. The teacher should have been immediately removed from the classroom."

"If it's even suspected, it should be reported to law enforcement," said Seidule. "Any sexually inappropriate comment should not be ignored. It is our contention that the St. Lucie County School Board is creating an institutional culture of ignoring very serious signs of potential sexual abuse by a teacher."

"The complaint was met with no response," she continued. "The student's mother filed a bullying and harassment complaint, she followed all of the guidelines of the school board. This was met with no response. She was very concerned that this teacher remained in the classroom with everything that she admitted and everything that was proven by their investigation."

The student's mother was a St. Lucie County teacher, and was named "Teacher of the Year" at a local elementary school. Seidule said the family decided to move out of state because of the alleged situation.

"They brought in children who were in the classroom, and they wrote, during the investigation, substantiation that the teacher did in fact do this," said Seidule. "So there's really no question that she did do this."

Seidule said David Hentz, Port St. Lucie High School junior varsity baseball coach, is related to Johnson. Seidule said the student was on the baseball team, and Hentz reportedly began retaliating against him.

"The JV coach told the young man, 'If you ever complain against me, you will never play ball again'," said Seidule.

Hentz confirmed to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers that Johnson is his niece by marriage, and that he had no comment on the lawsuit.

"The family decided to bring this case to hold the school board accountable, and to stop this type of conduct in the classroom," said Seidule. "Our children deserve a clean environment in which to learn, and that should not be tarnished by inappropriate conduct by a teacher. If a teacher is accused, then she should not have access to children."

Attempts were made to reach Johnson by phone and email, but there was no response.

St. Lucie County District spokesperson Janice Karst responded through email that the district can't comment on pending litigation. She did confirm there was an internal investigation that interviewed students about these allegations, and that Meri-Ann Johnson is still teaching at Port St. Lucie High School.


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