Springboro approves teacher sex abuse settlement agreement

School board approves settlement, but will not release amounts of agreements in public documents

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

The Springboro Board of Education Wednesday approved a settlement agreement on a federal civil class action lawsuit but did not state how much is being paid out to the parents whose children were sexually abused by a first-year gym teacher from December 2018 to March 2019.

During the board meeting, the agreement was quickly approved with no comment or any reference to a settlement agreement amount. The Dayton Daily News received a copy of the settlement late Thursday afternoon in response to an public records request sent earlier in the day.

Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction

Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction

In a follow up conversation with Scott Marshall, the district’s communication coordinator, and sending a subsequent public records request, this newspaper was told by Marshall late afternoon Friday via email that the request for the exact amount of the settlement sum was “denied.”

“The district does not possess a record of the final settlement sum amount. The settlement sum amount is an agreement between the district’s insurers, Liberty Mutual Insurance/Netherlands Insurance Company and the claimants, as referred to in the settlement agreement provided to you on June 15, 2023,” Marshall said in his email response.

Marshall also provided a statement on behalf of the District which said, “The district has had no out-of-pocket expenses for this claim, at this time. The settlement sum amount, as agreed upon by Liberty Mutual Insurance/Netherlands Insurance Company and the claimants is not an out-of-pocket, district expense. The district expense for this claim could reach a maximum of $2,500, based on the district’s insurance deductible for this claim.”

The settlement agreement also contains a confidentiality clause prohibiting disclosure of information of the parties and amounts. In exchange, the agreement releases the school district, former superintendent Daniel Schroer, and current Clearcreek Elementary School principal Carrie Corder.

The settlement agreement does not release the former gym teacher, John Austin Hopkins, who was convicted in June 2020 of 34 of 36 counts of gross sexual imposition involving 27 of the 28 alleged victims, all first grade girls, from civil claims. Hopkins was sentenced to eight years in prison and designated as a Tier II sexual offender.

After Hopkins is released, he will be required to register his address every six months with his local sheriff’s office for 25 years.

After working a year as a long-term substitute for the 2017-2018 school year, Hopkins was hired full-time as a gym teacher at Clearcreek Elementary and Springboro Intermediate schools for 2018-2019. His resignation was accepted by Springboro schools on March 19, 2019, according to court documents.

The settlement agreement also includes a number of improvements to protect children that have been completed or have been agreed to by the district. Among those improvements are:

  • Converting the security camera system from a closed circuit television video system to a web-based viewing system. This allows real-time surveillance monitoring by the School Resource Officer, all secretaries and building administrators.
  • Prohibiting doorbells from being installed outside of any building classrooms.
  • Prohibiting the covering of interior classroom window with decorations, fabric and/or curtains.
  • Mandating all staff to attend in-person training on topics of sexual harassment, abuse prevention and awareness.
  • All students, K-12, to receive annual training and exposure to curriculum addressing good-touch/bad-touch and how report any concerns related to such issues.

The class action lawsuit involves 22 students and was filed Sept. 16, 2019 in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. In the lawsuit, they claimed intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery; reckless supervision/failure to monitor, discover and report; violation of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment; and violation of Title IX.

A second lawsuit involving one child was filed with the federal court on Sept. 28, 2021 against the school board, Schroer, Corder and Hopkins. That case remains pending and was not part of the settlement agreement approved by the school board. In addition, Schroer and Corder are being sued in their individual and official capacities.

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