Lawsuit filed against Shelby County Schools, Daniel Acker Jr.

Published 9:57 pm Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A civil lawsuit has been filed against Daniel Acker Jr., pictured, the Shelby County Board of Education, current School Board member Steve Martin and former School Board member Lee Doebler. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A victim of Daniel Acker Jr. and four other unnamed plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Acker, the Shelby County Board of Education, former School Board member Lee Doebler and current School Board member Steve Martin.

The civil lawsuit was filed by Jon Goldfarb, Daniel Arciniegas and L. William Smith of the Birmingham-based Wiggins, Childs, Quinn and Pantazis law firm on behalf of Kristin Hurt and the four other plaintiffs.

Acker was sentenced to 17 years in prison in May 2012 after he pleaded guilty to eight counts of sexually abusing underage girls, including Hurt, during his more than 20-year teaching tenure in Alabaster.

The unnamed plaintiffs are all minors, and were students at Thompson Intermediate School while Acker was teaching there, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claimed the unnamed plaintiffs were victims in the cases Acker pleaded guilty to.

Acker, who currently is in prison, taught at Thompson Elementary School, Creek View Elementary School and TIS, and was a school bus driver during his teaching tenure in Alabaster.

The lawsuit claims the “defendants failed to meet their obligations to protect Shelby County’s county school children,” and claimed “Acker’s position as a school teacher and a bus driver gave him ready access to scores of students over his nearly two decades of employment by the Shelby County School Board.”

“Since 1992, Shelby County School Board and its agents have also known that DHR had placed Acker on a central registry for sexual offenders,” read the lawsuit. “Despite this finding, Shelby County School Board and its agents failed to take any steps to remove Acker, or to monitor his interaction with students to ensure that he did not sexually molest minor students in his custody.”

After Hurt’s mother reported Acker sexually abused Hurt in 1991, Acker was placed on leave from Creek View Elementary, and a grand jury did not indict him on the charge.

Norma Rogers, then the Shelby County Schools superintendent, recommended Acker not be reinstated as a teacher after the grand jury hearing, the lawsuit claims. The School Board, which then included Doebler and Martin, voted to reinstate Acker in 1993, according to the lawsuit.

During Acker’s sentencing hearing in 2012, prosecuting District Attorney Richard Minor said Acker “admitted that statements he made during that (1991) investigation were lies.”

The lawsuit claims Hurt was “bullied relentlessly following the public inquiry into her allegations” in 1991.

The lawsuit seeks monetary compensation from the plaintiffs.

Shelby County School Board spokeswoman Cindy Warner declined to comment on the matter on Feb. 6 “because it involves a pending legal matter.”

Doebler also declined to comment on Feb. 6.

“I don’t want to make any comment at this point,” Doebler said. “The board attorney is looking at that right now.”