A 22-year-old young woman named Robyn Lynn Ruiz filed a federal lawsuit against the Rio Hondo Independent School District in Rio Hondo, Texas on March 19, 2015. [A copy of the Complaint can be viewed at the bottom of this post.]
In her Complaint, Ruiz alleges that the school district failed to protect her from the advances of her band teacher, David Noyola, when he allegedly “pursued, lured, preyed upon and began to sexually violate” her during a pre-high school band camp. The RHISD filed a response on April 9 summarily denying all of the allegations made by Ruiz.
Ruiz’s lawsuit is based on the following factual claims:
- That the inappropriate relationship between her and Noyola started while she was in 8th grade and continued during band camp in the summer of 2006.
- That he began holding her hands while giving her rides to band camp.
- That he once answered the door in his boxer shorts when she showed up for a ride to camp and allegedly tried to kiss and grope her.
- That on a separate occasion, he allegedly attempted to have sex with her, but she left. He persuaded her to return later that evening, and then assaulted her.
- That the sexual assaults continued through Ruiz’s sophomore year at Rio Hondo High School.
The Complaint asserts that the victim’s mother told RHHS principal Veronica Puente about the possibility of an inappropriate relationship between her daughter and Noyola in September 2006, but that the principal merely passed the information on to the school’s band director, who took no action.
Even as rumors of an inappropriate relationship were circulating, Noyola transferred in 2009 to the Miller Jordan Middle School in San Benito, just 8.2 miles away from RHHS, where he took over as band director. He was arrested on charges of sexual assault on a child in August 2014 when the victim finally came forward.
Ruiz alleges in her Complaint that that Noyola admitted that the relationship occurred in text messages and recorded conversations obtained from her iPhone. Police also believe that they have evidence that Noyola continued to contact the girl following his transfer, telling her not to tell anyone about the assaults and threatening to commit suicide if she did.
Following his arrest, bail was set at $150,000, and he was indicted by a Cameron County jury on three counts of sexual assault of a child.
Ruiz argues that the Rio Hondo Independent School District violated her rights under the Fourteenth Amendment:
a. By using excessive force in sexually assaulting ROBYN LYNN RUIZ, and by acting with deliberate indifference to the needs of ROBYN LYNN RUIZ, which violated her Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishments; and
b. By failing to intervene, where such intervention would have prevented the sexual assault of ROBYN LYNN RUIZ.
The Complaint presents a lengthy list of specific acts or omissions that Ruiz claims contributed to her injuries. The list offers a good review for districts that would like to avoid dealing with similar lawsuits in the future:
a. Failing to train and supervise its teachers and/or principals adequately concerning their interaction with students;
b. Failing to train school officials regarding the proper manner in which to investigate complaints concerning teachers;
c. Failing to train and supervise its teachers and/or principals and/or school officials regarding the proper manner for reporting suspected child abuse and/or improper relationships between a district employee and a student;
d. Failing to adequately supervise the individuals Noyola, Puente, and Garza;
e. Failing to discipline adequately the individual Noyola for his unlawful use of force and sexual assaults/misconduct;
f. Responding with deliberate indifference to substantial, credible evidence of teacher/principal misconduct arising to the level of crime;
g. Responding with deliberate indifference to substantial, credible evidence of teacher/principal misconduct arising to the level of crime and failing to follow the procedures prescribed by law to deal with such misconduct; and
h. Failing to establish adequate procedures for reviewing teacher/principal performance, in general, and complaints involving allegations of sexual assault/misconduct by teachers in particular.
I continue to believe that these types of lawsuits will only grow more common, and schools need to make ongoing, rigorous professional development on these issues a regular part of their school year.