Family sues Milton-Union schools over handling of student abuse claim

School custodian Jerry North is charged with rape of a child; parents say school failed to properly investigate or report earlier concerns

TROY — The parents who allege their child was a victim of sexual harassment and sexual conduct by custodian Jerry North at Milton-Union Elementary School are suing the board of education, superintendent, North and others in civil court.

The complaint was filed in Miami County Common Pleas Court by the parents identified as John and Jane Doe against the Board of Education of the Milton-Union Exempted Village School District; Brad Ritchey, superintendent and as an individual; North; and John Doe employees of the school district.

Among the lawsuit’s claims is that Ritchey and the others were told about suspected harassment and abuse of the child but failed to properly investigate the claims and to report it.

Ohio law requires that if a school employee “knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect” that a child “has suffered or faces a threat of suffering” certain physical or mental abuse, they are to report it to police or a children services agency.

The complaint states the assaults occurred between Aug. 1, 2019, and May 31, 2021.

North, 60, of West Milton, was indicted earlier this year and pleaded not guilty to three counts of felony rape, two counts of felony gross sexual imposition and one felony count of intimidation of a witness or victim.

He is accused of having inappropriate interactions with a child while working as the school custodian between 2018 and 2021.

The family’s civil complaint alleges on Aug. 1, 2019, North allegedly began to follow the child into the boys restroom and give him candy. The parents said they noticed the boy bringing candy home and asked who gave it to him. The child said North allegedly would “stare at him and refuse to give him privacy” in the bathroom, according to the lawsuit. The encounters also included sexual contact, the suit claims, and alleged threats that if the boy told anyone, he would be victimized more often.

“Ritchey responded to plaintiffs’ complaints by suggesting that Male Child Doe, who was seven years old at the time, use the boys restroom on the opposite end of the school or ‘hold it’ until Male Child Doe got home,” the lawsuit claims.

Ritchey said Wednesday he could not comment on the lawsuit and its allegations at this time.

The complaint makes a series of allegations including negligence, sexual battery and violations of the child’s constitutional rights. The lawsuit seeks in excess of $25,000 on each claim.

A trial on the criminal charges against North was scheduled to begin later this month. At a hearing Monday, the trial date was moved to Nov. 28, because of legal issues including a request for review and possible use in the case of Children’s Services Board records, said Judge Stacy Wall.

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