For two years, Lauderhill Middle School teacher Kristen Sullivan carried on a sexual relationship with a teenage boy from her classroom — a crime that sent her to prison. Now, in a federal lawsuit filed this week, the teen’s family says the Broward school district should’ve stopped it.
The teen’s mother alleges that Lauderhill Middle’s assistant principal and principal encountered numerous “red flags” that suggested Sullivan had crossed a line with the 13-year-old eighth-grader. Those warning signs, the suit says, included Sullivan and the boy exiting a “discreet back office together, alone, on a daily basis, to the point that it would have been obvious to any reasonable person that the two were in an intimate and sexually inappropriate relationship.”
Police arrested Sullivan in April 2010, and she is serving a three-year prison sentence for aggravated child abuse. The relationship was discovered after the boy had moved on to high school and found a new girlfriend, who saw incriminating text messages from Sullivan on the boy’s cellphone.
“I’m tired of being the one chasing you,” one of those text messages read, according to her arrest affidavit.
School district officials declined to comment on the lawsuit. The family’s attorney, Jeff Herman, specializes in suing on behalf of sex-abuse victims.
The boy, now 17, spoke to reporters Thursday afternoon, and said he has struggled to trust girlfriends — or anyone — since the abuse occurred. Sullivan’s arrest strained his relationship with his mother, the boy said, because at first he felt “betrayed” that she had called police and got his teacher arrested. At the time, the boy said he thought he was in a loving, legitimate relationship.
Eventually, the boy said he realized the sexual encounters were wrong, but he said some of his friends turned against him, and sympathized more with Sullivan. Because of his gender, the boy said, he’s treated differently than a female victim.
“They don’t understand the toll it can take on you,” he said. “I lost sleep. I lost friends.”
The teen previously told police that he and his teacher had sex more than 100 times, including twice in a computer storeroom at school. Prosecutors showed leniency with Sullivan (she will not have to register as a sex offender, for example) because the police investigation determined the boy was the pursuer.
The boy’s mother Thursday said she’s unsatisfied with Sullivan’s three-year sentence.
“They said that he was the aggressor, a 13-year-old is an aggressor,” the mother said. “But then turn the tables with a little girl, would she be the aggressor?”