Teen sexual assault victim files suit against band teacher and CMS

Richard Priode (Photo courtesy of the Mecklenburg County Jail)
Richard Priode (Photo courtesy of the Mecklenburg County Jail)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A civil lawsuit has been filed against Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and a former teacher claiming negligence on both their parts in an ongoing sexual affair the band teacher had with the plaintiff while she was a high school student.

The plaintiff is not name in the lawsuit and is only identified as "Jane Doe".

The lawsuit, which was filed in Mecklenburg County on Friday, May 13, names both the CMS Board of Education and former CMS employee Richard Priode as defendants in the case.

Doe is a former student at South Mecklenburg High School (SMHS) where Priode was employed as the band teacher.

Priode pled guilty in Mecklenburg County Superior Court on October 28, 2009, to having taken indecent liberties with Doe.

The lawsuit alleges that Priode "had a history of inappropriate behavior with students at some of his prior schools that should have been known to the board, had a proper background check been conducted."

WEB EXTRA: Read the full lawsuit here

The lawsuit also says when Priode was hired by CMS as a band director for SMHS during the 2006-07 school year, he was "married to one of his prior high school students, notwithstanding a significant age difference."

Prior to teaching in Charlotte, Priode taught at Laney High School in New Hanover County and Scotland High School. He also taught at Central High School in Darlington, SC, and high schools in Richlands and Radford, Virginia.

When Priode started teaching at SMHS, Doe was a junior student and a band student.

The lawsuit alleges that Priode made sexual innuendos to Doe "in an attempt to eventually have her engage in sexual relationships with him, her teacher."

The lawsuit goes on to say that when Doe turned 16 years old, "Doe was persuaded by Priode to engage in oral sex with him." Priode, at the time, was 42 years old.

The lawsuit says the sexual encounters occurred in the band room, the drum major's closet, Priode's office, or in the music library/band room. The encounters at school frequently made her late to her next period class and some instances occurred after school.

Starting in the spring of 2007 and continuing through the student's senior year, the lawsuit says Priode and Doe "had frequent oral sex."

The lawsuit says Priode made several advances encouraging Doe to have vaginal intercourse with him because "Priode knew that Doe was a virgin."

The lawsuit says Priode "finally managed to take Doe's virginity while on a school sponsored band trip." The other students who went on the trip shared rooms, but "Priode insisted on Doe having her own individual room," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims Tracy Smith, an adult working with the color guard, became concerned about Priode comments and met with SMHS Principal Dr. Furr.

The lawsuit says Smith was told since she wasn't a CMS employee "she should refrain from funneling complaints about Priode to Dr. Furr and that she, Dr. Furr, should receive the complaints directly as it was her job to deal with such matters."

Smith was later fired from her position at SMHS.

During the summer of 2009, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department charged Priode with felony offense of indecent liberties with a student. He pled guilty to the offense on October 28, 2009.

The lawsuit says CMS had a obligation to provide an education for Doe "in a safe environment, free from negligent and intentional harm."

The lawsuit alleges that CMS was negligent in a number of ways such as not properly evaluating Priode's background and his conduct at previous schools before he was hired to teach at SMHS, failing to investigate "complaints of his inappropriate sexual remarks and practices with other students," and "failing to document known instances of Priode's inappropriate behavior, or to investigate those instances and make appropriate inquires that should have lead to revealing Priode's inappropriate relationship with the Plaintiff."

As a result of their ongoing affair, the lawsuit says Doe suffered "emotional distress, psychological and mental suffering, all having significantly altered the Plaintiff's life and career plans..." It also says she is undergoing ongoing psychological and psychiatric care.

Consequently, the lawsuit says Doe has "abandoned her love of playing an instrument in band and gave up the scholarship she received to play at the college level."

Doe is suing for damages in excess of $10,000, and her attorneys are T. Patrick Matus, Edward G. Connette, and Seth Langson.

CMS spokeswoman Lauren Bell said the school district does not comment on pending lawsuits.

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