A math teacher at Burke High School coerced one of her students into performing sexual acts by threatening to dock his grade, according to a lawsuit filed in Charleston County circuit court Thursday.
The teacher, Jennifer Danielle Olajire-Aro, 27, of Devlin Road on Johns Island, was arrested in December 2017 and charged with one count of sexual battery with a student 16 or 17 years of age, according to court records. She taught pre-calculus and algebra and worked as a tennis coach at Burke and had no prior criminal record. The criminal court case is still pending.
The student was 17 at the time of the arrest, according to paperwork Olajire-Aro filed with the State Board of Education to surrender her educator certificate in January.
In the civil lawsuit filed Thursday, the student and his parent — identified only as John and Mary Doe — accuse the Charleston County School District of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They are seeking a jury trial and a judgment for actual and compensatory damages, including medical and health care expenses.
A school district spokesman said the district did not have a response and had not yet been served with regards to the lawsuit. The district is currently facing a firestorm of criticism for its handling of an unrelated case involving a former employee at Dunston Primary in North Charleston who allegedly accessed child pornography on a school-issued laptop computer.
"Defendant CCSD, who has a history of employees engaging in romantic relationships with students, committing sexual acts on students, storing and viewing pornography on CCSD issued computers, and the like, failed to properly inform or train Aro on the policies and failed to properly supervise Aro to ensure she was not in violation of said policies," the lawsuit states.
In August 2017, while the student was enrolled in Aro's math class, she began flirting with him and having conversations about sex with him before, during and after class, according to the lawsuit. The complaint goes on to say that she "encouraged and coerced" John Doe to engage in sexual intercourse with her at the school, in her personal vehicle, at her home and, on at least one occasion, in the presence of her 10-month-old baby. She also sent him inappropriate messages via phone and a social media text application, according to the complaint.
"Each time Plaintiff John Doe would dismiss Aro's advances and requests to perform sexual intercourse with her, Aro would remind Plaintiff John Doe that she alone controlled what grade he would receive in her class," the lawsuit states. The student said he began skipping math class to avoid his peers after the teacher made "public, direct and obvious advances."
In December 2017, after the student resisted her sexual advances, Aro "acted on her threat and changed Plaintiff John Doe's math grade from a 98 to an 89," according to the lawsuit. The student told his mother about the alleged multiple instances of sexual intercourse after his final grade had been entered for the fall 2017 semester. Aro was arrested on Dec. 19, three days before school let out for the winter holiday.
"Where the safety, protection, and well-being of our students is paramount, acts such as these and others by employees under the direct supervision of the CCSD are outrageous, and must be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable. If the district won't fix the problem, the courts will," said the plaintiffs' attorney, Mark A. Peper.