CLINTON — The parents of a former Clinton middle-school student who had a sexual relationship with a teacher have filed a lawsuit against the Clinton School District, Clinton Middle School and multiple current and former employees, alleging negligent hiring, supervision and retention, premises liability and invasion of privacy.
In their lawsuit, Kaylyn and Jeffrey Dickinson are suing the Clinton School District, Clinton Middle School, Deb Olson, John Jorgensen, Dan Boyd, Sharon Craig, Renee Guy-Castle and Karinne Tharaldson.
The petition lists Olson as Clinton School District superintendent, Jorgensen as the Clinton School District's director of learning and collaboration, Boyd as Clinton Middle School principal, Craig as a behavior interventionist at Clinton Middle School, Guy-Castle as a paraeducator at Clinton Middle School and Tharaldson as Clinton High School principal at all times relevant in the petition.
The couple's attorney, Roxanne Conlin, in the lawsuit alleges all defendants of being in violation of Article I, Sections 6 and 9 of the Iowa constitution, as well as negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and loss of consortium. The petition accuses the Clinton School District and Clinton Middle School of negligent hiring, supervision and retention and premises liability. The petition accuses Olson, Clinton Middle School and the Clinton School District of invasion of privacy.
"Plaintiffs request judgement against defendants jointly and severally in an amount that will fully and fairly compensate them for their damages alleged herein, with interest thereon provided by law, costs of this action and such other relief as the Court deems just and proper," the petition states.
The petition states the juvenile female started her eighth-grade school year on Aug. 14, 2014. She was 13 years old at the time. The petition states that shortly after starting eighth grade, the juvenile female and Christopher Nielsen, now 41 and a teacher at the time at Clinton Middle School, began chatting on Instagram and Snapchat. Nielsen was not one of the juvenile female's regular teachers but would come to her classes with a classmate, who had a behavioral disorder, to supervise the student. The mother met Nielsen on Aug. 27, 2014, at the former Lyons Middle School at a meeting about the student dress code.
The petition continues sometime in October or November of 2014, when the juvenile female was 14 and in eighth grade, Guy-Castle and Craig confronted Nielsen about his inappropriate behavior with another female student and told him his conduct "didn't look good." Nielsen then reassigned himself to another class and started socializing with the juvenile female's group of friends. Guy-Castle told juvenile females to stay away from Nielsen.
The petition states that on Feb. 27, 2015, Nielsen texted the juvenile female asking her why she was not at school. Nielsen contacted the juvenile female between March 16, 2015, and March 20, 2015, while the family was in Florida, asking why she was absent from school because it was not yet spring break. Nielsen attended the juvenile female's soccer game in May 2015. Nielsen watched from his car and then walked over to the family's car and talked to the juvenile female and her mother after the game was over and people were leaving.
The petition continues that on May 26, 2015, Nielsen gave the juvenile female a large trophy at lunch time and read an "inappropriate two-page speech" over the Clinton Middle School speaker system, which was heard by all students and staff, announcing that the juvenile female had won an award at a time when no other students were receiving awards. The criterion for winning the award were all personal and completely unrelated to any academic or extracurricular involvement. Nielsen commented on the juvenile female's appearance and on other matters involving her family.
The petition states the incident was reported to Boyd by a teacher. Boyd was allegedly contacted by several others about the incident. Boyd met with Nielsen and told him his behavior was inappropriate and to stop such behavior in the future. He allegedly took no other action.
The petition states that sometime in early June 2015, a concerned parent contacted the juvenile female's parents about a comment Nielsen wrote in the juvenile female's yearbook. The parent thought the comment was inappropriate and told the juvenile female's parents that she observed Nielsen hanging around the juvenile female's softball games.
The mother of one of the juvenile female's friends called the juvenile female's mother on June 9, 2015, urging the mother to get together with two other mothers to talk about Nielsen. They met at the residence of the juvenile female's mother on that day. One mother explained to the juvenile female's mother the ways Nielsen, according to their daughters, behaved inappropriately around the juvenile female at school.
The petition states that on June 14, 2015, the juvenile female's parents asked Nielsen to come to their house. They discussed their concerns with him regarding his behavior in relation to the juvenile female. The father explained to Nielsen that it was inappropriate for him to text the juvenile female. The father told Nielsen he should not be alone with the juvenile female or other students, outside of school-sponsored activities.
The petition states that on Aug. 27, 2015, the president of the Parent-Teacher Association met with Jorgensen to share her concerns about Nielsen, who was living in her family's basement due to marital problems. She had found a picture of the juvenile female on Nielsen's dresser. She disclosed the information to Jorgensen. She also told Jorgensen that Nielsen had been texting and sending Instagram messages to the juvenile female.
The petition continues that on Aug. 31, 2015, Nielsen was interviewed at the Clinton School District Administration Building about the concerns brought forward by the parent. The student services director, the education association president, the uniserve director and Jorgensen were present. Nielsen allegedly blamed others for "trying to stir up problems" about him. Nielsen admitted to texting the juvenile female but said it was only about softball.
Nielsen was then told not to have contact with any student by phone, tweet, text or any other social media without copying the message to a third-party adult. The district's ethics training pertaining to his behavior was reviewed and discussed with Nielsen. Information regarding this meeting was not given to a representative of the Clinton Police Department when he initially went to get Nielsen's records from the school district's administration building.
The petition states that sometime between Sept. 8 and Sept. 17, 2015, Nielsen went to the juvenile female's volleyball game and watched by the doorway, with his hood up. He came over to speak with the juvenile female's parents, who were sitting on the bleachers, after the game. Nielsen told them he had been called to the meeting at the Clinton School District Administration Building. He told the parents that at that meeting he stated he was just friends with the juvenile female.
The petition states from about November 2015 to January 2016, the juvenile female went to basketball games and then left to go meet Nielsen. The juvenile female texted Nielsen from March 12, 2016, to March 22, 2016, during the juvenile female's family spring break trip in Florida without her parents' knowledge.
The lawsuit states that the juvenile female wanted to go to Hobby Lobby on May 5, 2016, for items to make Nielsen's birthday gift. The mother was unaware that Nielsen's birthday was the reason for the trip. Nielsen and the juvenile female on May 9, 2016, met after Clinton High School track practice. Nielsen allegedly had sex with the juvenile female, court documents state.
The petition continues that on May 15, 2016, the mother found the juvenile female's backpack full of gifts and notes from Nielsen describing past encounters between Nielsen and the juvenile female. The father called the Clinton Police Department on May 16, 2016, after finding handwritten notes between Nielsen and the juvenile female and spoke with a representative of the Clinton Police Department. The juvenile female on May 18, 2016, told her mother what Nielsen had done. The juvenile female and her parents went to the Clinton Police Department and the juvenile female was interrogated. The juvenile female went to Mercy Medical Center – Clinton on May 19, 2016, to have lab tests done prior to another meeting with the Clinton Police Department at 10 a.m. The mother took the shopping bag of gifts from Nielsen to the Clinton Police Department following the medical appointment.
The petition states at some point in May 2016, Olson allegedly sent out a mass email to the Clinton School District faculty and the school board about the juvenile female having had "sexual intercourse with a special education teacher." Nielsen was arrested on May 20, 2016, in Fulton, Illinois. Nielsen was released from jail on June 3, 2016, with an ankle monitor and a no-contact order. The order was issued on May 24, 2016. The Clinton School District received a letter of resignation from Nielsen on June 9, 2016.
The affidavit states Nielsen began to contact the juvenile female again through Snapchat at the end of June 2016. The mother sometime in July 2016 learned about the Parent-Teacher Association president's meeting with Jorgensen back in August 2015 when she had reported Nielsen, who had been living with them, had a picture of the juvenile female on his dresser. The mother also discovered the Parent-Teacher Association president had reported Nielsen's text messages and Instagram messages and she felt this behavior was very inappropriate. The last time Nielsen and the juvenile female met with each other was on Nov. 5, 2016. They allegedly had sexual contact at this meeting, court documents state. The mother saw Snapchat messages from Nielsen to the juvenile female on Nov. 9, 2016, that were of a sexual nature. The juvenile female's father called police and told them Nielsen had violated his no-contact order.
The case already has made its way through the criminal court system. District Court Judge John Telleen on June 29 ordered Nielsen to serve up to 10 years in prison for third-degree sexual abuse. He was additionally sentenced to a special sentence of lifetime on parole after his release from incarceration. Telleen also sentenced him to up to five years in prison for sexual exploitation by a school employee. He ordered Nielsen to serve a special sentence of 10 years as if he were on parole. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently.