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PHOENIX — On Sept. 15, 2020, four women, all former 1970s-era Phoenix middle and high school students, filed a civil sexual abuse lawsuit against the Phoenix Central School District in state Supreme Court.

They accused the district of failing to protect them from three teachers who allegedly abused them in ways ranging from inappropriate touching to forcible rape. They further allege that it is very probable district administrators and other employees of the district knew of this behavior and did nothing to prevent it or stop it.

The three alleged perpetrators are not named as defendants in the lawsuit. Attorney Mollie Cearley, of the Marsh Law Firm representing the women, explained that “ultimately at the end of the day, it’s the district who was responsible for protecting these students, and it was the district that then for years and years turned a blind eye to the pain of these students.”

The school district, according to Cearley, originally had 60 days to submit an answer to the lawsuit. After it was received, the discovery process would begin. Those steps, though, have been put on hold as the entire process has been delayed.

“We’ve had to sever the complaint into two different lawsuits,” Cearley explained recently, “one for one of the plaintiffs, because her abuse happened earlier, and the other one for three of the other plaintiffs, because it’s later. We’re working on that right now. We’re waiting for the judge’s approval.”

Aside from that, she said, “really nothing’s happened.”

The school district has still not submitted an answer to the lawsuit’s original complaint.

“It’s going to be litigated by two different attorneys,” Cearley said. “The one with three plaintiffs is going to be litigated by the attorney with the insurance company, and the one that just has one plaintiff on the lawsuit is going to be litigated by the school itself.”

Because the lawsuits are being separated, Cearley said, the school district is going to provide separate answers to each lawsuit.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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