She and her family are now suing Montgomery County Public Schools, its Board of Education, and that former teacher, Richard Shemer, 51, of Potomac, for million in punitive and compensatory damages, plus attorney s fees.
In the spring of 2013, the student, then a 16-year-old sophomore, enrolled in Shemer's Modern World social studies class at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington. Within weeks, the two began exchanging emails. According to the civil lawsuit filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court, the content of those online interactions went from friendly to frisky, and then all-out filthy.
It's something that angers me, but also makes me physically sick, the teenage victim's mother, Isabel Estrada, told ABC 7 News during an exclusive interview. That is the only way to put it.
Among the topics the 51-year-old teacher discussed with a girl barely old enough to obtain a driver's license: sexting, bondage, domination, submission and masochism.
Teachers cannot communicate with those terms, such specific abhorrent sexual acts, things that I wouldn't dream of doing with a consenting adult, let alone forcing a child to do, the Estrada family's defense attorney Norman Schneider said.
Emails obtained by ABC 7 News show on Sept. 7, 2013, Shemer wrote the girl saying: Now take a picture of your [expletive] and send it to me.
Although the 2:56 a.m. request came directly from his school district email address, the lawsuit says school officials never questioned Shemer about his explicitly vulgar language.
All of this harm was caused because Montgomery County Public Schools were not doing their work, they were not monitoring. They had the resources to do it, they had the system to do it, but they were derelict, Estrada remarked.
In a later email, this one from an AOL account, the suit claims Shemer offered his female student illegal drugs: Only was able to get 3 pills, but I think you'll be happy, he wrote. In another message, the once well-respected teacher indicated he was, stoned.
It's just amazing that nobody in the [Albert] Einstein administration, nor anywhere in the public school system did something, Schneider said. It is a failure by the school, by the county and by Shemer himself.
In June 2013, Estrada emailed Mr. Shemer inquiring as to why her daughter was routinely coming home later than usual. Shemer replied saying, I hope I have not caused any problems by having [your daughter] stay after school to work on her IA assignment. Several students have requested extra help with this paper.
Then in October, a bombshell revelation. Estrada was browsing the Internet on the family computer when she stumbled across her daughter's GMail account; what she read was a shock to the conscience.
I absolutely couldn't believe it. The level of the crassness was very stunning. There were clear references to body parts, references to sexual acts, very specific and descriptive sexual acts, Estrada stated. I honestly think if I said them, you wouldn't be able to air them on television.
It wasn't long before Montgomery County Police arrested and charged Shemer, who also served as Albert Einstein's varsity baseball coach, with a slew of felony crimes.
It wasn't days, but rather a matter of hours before nasty rumors rushed down hallways, and swept into classrooms. Mr. Shemer's victim was soon subjected to relentless harassment and mocking by her peers. Estrada immediately transferred her daughter to nearby Montgomery Blair High School, but the scandal and scorn followed her. A 12-day stint at Sheppard Pratt psychiatric hospital in Towson did not help either. And so, for the last 10 months, the now 17-year-old has lived more than 2,000 miles away from Montgomery County, attending a special all-girls boarding school in Utah. The tuition ,000 per month.
Yes, it has broken us financially. We have zero financial resources right now, Estrada remarked. You know, I have never gotten a call from anybody in the school system to say, 'How is your daughter doing? How is she? What could we do to help?'
Estrada and her husband say they've wiped out their savings and retirement accounts in order to provide their daughter with the recuperation, rehabilitation and treatment she needs. Although a final count is still underway, the family estimates it's already spent 0,000, and expects that figure to significantly increase.
Due to the inappropriate relationships of a sexual nature, [the victim] has acted out in the forms of drug use, conflict with family unit, acting out sexually, being oppositional and deviant with authority figures and numbing her emotions, a therapist at the Utah boarding school wrote during a recent behavioral evaluation. In my opinion it would be extremely detrimental to the work that she is doing to remove her from the program at this time.
With their financial forecast looking bleak, the Estrada's recently turned to MCPS for financial assistance, but claim administrators denied any level of culpability.
Their response was, 'We're not going to pay you a penny; we don't think we're responsible for this.' That was the ultimate shock, Schneider added.
MCPS historically refuses to comment about pending litigation, and despite multiple attempts by ABC 7 News, the same is true in this case. A spokesman would only say by email that his office, will respond in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time.
In March, Shemer pleaded guilty to one felony count of Child Sex Abuse. In June, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge sentenced him to one-year behind bars. In late September, however, the 51-year-old was released from jail and is currently on home monitoring.
Their last exchange was basically deciding how to meet, and with very specific instructions of what to do, sexually speaking. It was just luck that I found out that day and not a couple of weeks later, because it certainly could have gone much farther, Estrada concluded. It's just been a nightmare.
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