West Ada

Family sues Kuna School District, claims others knew employee was abusing disabled boy

Students stream into Kuna Middle School. The town’s growth is part of the reason the school district sought a bond in March for building expansion.
Students stream into Kuna Middle School. The town’s growth is part of the reason the school district sought a bond in March for building expansion. kjones@idahostatesman.com

The Kuna School District is being sued on behalf of a minor after a Kuna Middle School office manager was accused of sexually assaulting the child and other office employees did nothing to stop the behavior, a lawsuit alleges.

The suit, filed Jan. 5, comes two months after former office manager Melissa Whiteley was fired amid a police investigation of “inappropriate conduct with a minor.” No charges have been filed against Whiteley, who was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Ada County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Patrick Orr confirmed that Whiteley is still under investigation.

In the suit, Whiteley is accused of “grooming” the boy, who lawyers say suffers from a learning disorder, when he was in seventh, eighth and ninth grades. The lawsuit claims that the school district failed to protect the boy from a sexual predator, and the child’s lawyer is seeking damages of at least $2 million.

School district spokesman David Reinhart declined to comment because it is an active lawsuit.

“The entire office staff including the principal had actual knowledge from observation and discussion of Whiteley grooming (the child) with sexual contact in 2015, 2016 and 2017,” the lawsuit alleges.

According to the suit, Whiteley had a desk in the office common area where “various senior members of the administrative staff” could see her regular interactions with the alleged victim.

“(The student) had no educational reason to loiter at Whiteley’s desk. They would share intimate, whispered conversations with occasional physical contact,” the lawsuit claims. “At various times one or more of the staff in the office area made comments to (the child) such as ‘she is way too old for you’ and to Whiteley and (the child); ‘you two shouldn’t be flirting so much here in the office.’”

The boy’s lawyer also alleges that a teacher in the district knew of the boy’s affinity for visiting Whiteley. The lawsuit claims school district employees “disregarded the public, obvious and glaring red flags that Whiteley could be or was a sexual predator; they allowed the constant contact in the office complex without voicing disapproval and to the contrary, making coy chiding remarks.”

When the boy left Kuna Middle School for high school in 2017, Whiteley allegedly began texting the student, including nude photos, according to the boy’s lawyer. The suit alleges that the boy’s mother became alarmed when Whiteley started texting the child and coming to the family’s home to pick him up in her vehicle. She learned of the sexual nature of their relationship from her son, the lawsuit says, and notified the Ada County Sheriff’s Office of the relationship.

When Whiteley was fired in November, Kuna District Superintendent Wendy Johnson said there was “nothing in (Whiteley’s) background check that indicated that we could have anticipated this alleged behavior from her.”