A woman has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a fifth-grade teacher at Margaret Leary Elementary school in Butte sexually assaulted a student.
The civil suit, filed Dec. 23 in U.S. District Court in Butte, also says school officials did nothing about it and knew about previous accusations of abuse and harassment against the teacher, Paul Dailey. It seeks unspecified damages.
It alleges specific acts in a classroom and on a bus during a field trip during the 2017-2018 school year, including touching private parts, and says school officials did nothing to stop the acts, protect students or inform parents.
The lawsuit names as defendants Dailey, Butte School District No. 1 and up to 50 “John Does” — people associated with the defendants whose wrongdoings will be specified as the case progresses.
The lawsuit says Dailey now lives outside of Montana. Efforts by The Montana Standard to locate him for response were unsuccessful Friday. A phone number associated with his name was called but a message said calls were not being accepted.
According to the Butte school district, Dailey started teaching at Margaret Leary in August 2016 and the school board accepted his resignation effective June 5, 2020.
The Standard also asked if he was fired or asked to resign, but in an email, Butte Schools Superintendent Judy Jonart said privacy rights prevented her from providing additional information about Dailey that was not public record. She also said the district had not yet been served with the lawsuit.
“When served, the District will retain counsel and defend the lawsuit filed against the District. The District does not comment on pending litigation,” she wrote in the email.
The lawsuit was filed by a woman on behalf of a female student. The Standard is not naming the plaintiff in an effort to protect the identity of an alleged sexual assault victim, in this case a minor.
The plaintiff met with school officials to discuss the allegations in July 2018 and that summer, according to the lawsuit, reported them to Butte police.
Sheriff Ed Lester said police investigated the matter and findings were forwarded to the county attorney’s office for review.
“At the conclusion of the review, no charges were filed,” Lester said, adding that he could not comment further.
The lawsuit alleges that Dailey brought the student food and treats to class, asked her about prior sexual abuse and kept her in a classroom alone during recess with the door closed and windows covered. It says inappropriate touching occurred then.
It alleges he made other inappropriate comments to her and begged her not to tell anyone about the events, saying he could be fired.
During a field trip in May 2018, the suit alleges, he forced her to sit next to him and he touched private parts. The student told others about the incidents in June 2018, it says.
The plaintiff met with the school principal and a district human resources official in July 2018 and during the meeting, “they admitted that others had previously accused Dailey of abuse and harassment.”
It says another person notified the district board in writing about the incidents in late September 2018, and despite everything, the district did not investigate, took no action against the teacher and did nothing to end the abuse or protect the victim and other students.
The victim suffered severe panic attacks and anxiety because of the abuse and district inaction, withdrew from school and “continues to suffer from aggravating, persistent and permanent injuries to her body and psyche,” the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages from the defendants for past, present and future medical expenses, lost education benefits and emotional pain and suffering, among other things.
It seeks punitive damages “to deter other teachers from acting in the same manner.”