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Court rejects lawsuit over Utah teacher convicted of sex with students

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Court of Appeals has rejected a lawsuit filed by a victim of a Davis High teacher convicted of sexual misconduct with students.

Brianne Altice cries during her parole hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Image by Doug Eldredge, FOX 13 News)

The ruling, published Friday night, upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit filed against the Davis School District over former teacher Brianne Altice. She’s currently serving a prison sentence for forcible sex abuse, accused of misconduct with three students.

The former student, whom FOX 13 is not naming because he is the victim of a sex crime, sued the school district accusing it of negligence in its hiring, supervision and retention of the teacher. The teen, who was 16 at the time, alleged “the District knew, or at least should have known, that Teacher ‘had been previously terminated from former employment due to sexual misconduct.'”

“In addition, [the teen] asserts that on at least one occasion, the District ‘reprimanded Teacher’ after learning that she had been involved with ‘inappropriate contact with students,’ but that the District “failed to take sufficient steps to either terminate her or supervise her,” Judge Ryan Harris wrote in the ruling.

The Davis School District responded that it is protected under governmental immunity laws from any injuries that were proximately caused by the teacher. In its ruling, the three judge panel of the Utah Court of Appeals agreed — somewhat reluctantly.

Judge Harris wrote that the Utah Supreme Court had grappled with a similar case decades ago, and had actually suggested the Utah State Legislature to modify the laws to give some civil remedy to victims in cases like this.

“In the intervening years, however, our legislature has not amended the Act to expressly provide for such a remedy. Under the language of the Act— under either one of two possible interpretations, and as the Act has been interpreted by our supreme court—the District is entirely immune from suit for the acts alleged here,” Judge Harris wrote. “Accordingly, the district court correctly dismissed [the teen’s] complaint.”

Two other students have filed federal lawsuits against the Davis School District making similar allegations.