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**ALERT: New Lawsuit says Elementary School Children Abused by Unsupervised Visitor

**ALERT: New Lawsuit says Elementary School Children Abused by Unsupervised Visitor

New Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Filed

Against Highlands County School Board

Suit Claims that School Employee Gave Man Unsupervised and “Unfettered Access” to Youngsters Despite

Prior Allegation of Sexual Abuse

WHAT

A new child sexual abuse lawsuit filed against the SCHOOL BOARD OF HIGHLANDS COUNTY and school employee MARIA GONZALEZ alleges that Gonzalez left children in the school’s after-care program unsupervised for extended periods of time during which her husband, who was not a school employee, sexually abused a 10 year old girl.

DETAILS

JEFF HERMAN, a nationally recognized advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, announces the filing of a new federal court lawsuit alleging that a 10 year old girl was sexually abused at LAKE COUNTRY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL in Lake Placid, Florida.

The suit claims that the girl, who was enrolled in the school’s after-care program, was sexually abused multiple times between 2008 and 2010 by ORESTES GONZALEZ, the husband of school nurse and after-care supervisor, MARIA GONZALEZ.  The suit also claims that the school received a report in 1994 that ORESTES GONZALEZ, who was not a school employee nor otherwise authorized to be around the schoolchildren, sexually abused a girl enrolled in the after-care program.  It further alleges that the school did nothing to prevent his access to children or otherwise warn parents that the accused man was given extended periods of unsupervised access to the elementary students. Jane Doe reported the alleged abuse in February, 2011, when questioned by police investigators called in following another girl’s disclosure that she was abused by Gonzalez.

In December, 2011, 78 year old ORESTES GONZALEZ pled guilty to multiple counts of sexually abusing children in the after-care program, including the girl identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe. He is awaiting sentencing. Officials charged Maria Gonzalez with witness tampering for attempting to coerce Jane Doe’s mother into lying to police investigators.

Jane Doe No. 15 v. School Board of Highlands County and Maria Gonzalez(case no. 12-cv-14151) was filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Wednesday morning.  Copies of the Complaint are available by calling the number below or emailing jarbour@hermanlaw.com.

Of the suit, Herman said, “I commend this very brave family for the courage and strength they have shown throughout this entire process.  This lawsuit is about healing and accountability.  The facts alleged in our Complaint are particularly disturbing because a school is where we parents send our children every day and trust will protect our children as we would, yet they suggest this school made conscious choices to place children at risk.”

Herman’s Miami-based firm, Herman, Mermelstein & Horowitz, P.A., devotes 100% of its practice to the representation of sexual abuse victims.  In 2010, Herman’s firm won a federal court appeal on behalf of a high school student raped by her math teacher at another Florida school, creating a new legal right for those sexually abused in the nation’s public schools.

The plaintiffs are also represented by Steve Farbman of Hollywood, Florida.

Please contact Jeff Herman for further comment.

CONTACT

Jeff Herman, Esq.: (305) 931-2200 (office), jherman@hermanlaw.com

Jessica Arbour, Esq.: (305) 931-2200 (office), jarbour@hermanlaw.com

HERMAN, MERMELSTEIN & HOROWITZ, P.A.

18205 Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 2218

Miami, Florida 33160

(305) 931-2200

F: (305) 931-0877

www.hermanlaw.com

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