The parents of a child who was allegedly sexually abused by a custodian at a Spanish Fork elementary school are suing the school district and the school’s principal and psychologist, claiming officials hid the accusations from them and, as a result, their child was subjected to ongoing trauma.
The lawsuit stems from allegations against 61-year-old Adrian Villar, who has pleaded not guilty to two first-degree felony counts of aggravated child abuse and class A misdemeanor lewdness involving a child.
The charges allege that in February 2017, Villar, a custodian at Sierra Bonita Elementary School, was alone with a boy in the school’s restroom, and pulled down his own pants, then made the child grab his genitals.
A week later, he allegedly pulled down an 11-year-old boy’s pants in a shed on school grounds and touched the boy’s genitals and buttocks.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this month in 3rd District Court and transferred to 4th District Court on Thursday, deals only with the latter boy’s allegations. The Salt Lake Tribune generally doesn’t identify victims of sexual abuse and are not naming the boy’s parents to protect his identity.
The lawsuit accuses principal Garret Anderson, school psychologist Kendra McPherson, the elementary school and Nebo School District of negligence, deliberate indifference to Villar’s alleged harassment of the boy, and not telling the boy’s parents about Villar’s alleged behavior.
The boy’s attitude apparently started to change around November 2016, according to the lawsuit.
He began “melting down all the time,” and was easily upset and difficult to calm. He began carving up the walls of the family home with a knife, attempted suicide and wouldn’t sleep on his own. The lawsuit says these behaviors got worse as the school year progressed.
The boy’s parents thought his behavior was due to a medication imbalance.
However, in February 2018 — one year after the boy was allegedly sexually abused — former elementary school teacher Janna Slye contacted the boy’s parents (and the parents of the other boy) and told them “about incidents involving their children and the Sierra Bonita janitor Mr. Villar.”
That discussion led to both boys being interviewed by Child Protective Services personnel, and to them, the children disclosed the alleged abuse.
Slye told The Salt Lake Tribune in May 2018 that after finding Villar alone in the restroom with a student, which is a violation of school policy, she reported her concerns to her superiors.
Instead of looking into Villar, she said, she was retaliated against and forced to resign.
According to the lawsuit, another school employee raised concerns after finding the other boy (the subject of the lawsuit) alone with Villar in Villar’s office the day after he allegedly abused the boy in the restroom.
The school district investigated Villar at the time and didn’t find cause to fire him. Spanish Fork police also investigated and did not find evidence to support arresting him.
However, the department did arrest Villar in May 2018, after investigators got more information and a second alleged victim — the child referenced in this lawsuit — came forward.
The lawsuit claims school officials had received reports of Villar being alone with students and that other employees were concerned about it, but the school did not adequately investigate him or notify the students’ parents.
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of withholding the information “to the detriment of the familial relationship in order to avoid a potential controversy surrounding Mr. Villar.”
The lawsuit claims that if the parents were made aware of the employees’ concerns, their child could have underwent therapy to deal with his trauma earlier.
The boy’s parents are suing for a to-be-determined amount of money, including damages, attorney fees and other litigation costs.
A spokeswoman for Nebo School District did not immediately respond to The Tribune’s request for comment Thursday evening. Both Anderson and McPherson are still listed on the elementary school’s faculty page.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs also did not respond.
Villar’s jury trial in the criminal case is scheduled for February 2020.