Shelby County School Board claims immunity in Acker lawsuit

The Shelby County School Board, current board member Steve Martin and former member Lee Doebler recently responded to a lawsuit filed against them in relation to Daniel Acker Jr., pictured. (File)

The Shelby County School Board, current board member Steve Martin and former member Lee Doebler recently responded to a lawsuit filed against them in relation to Daniel Acker Jr., pictured. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Shelby County Board of Education, former School Board member Lee Doebler and current School Board member Steve Martin said the claims brought against them in a recent lawsuit are “barred by state and federal immunity.”

The civil lawsuit was filed by Kristin Hurt and four other unnamed plaintiffs against the School Board, Doebler, Martin and Daniel Acker Jr.

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.

In an answer to the complaint brought against them, the defendants claimed those who filed the lawsuit are “not entitled to any relief against these defendants.” The answer was filed in U.S. District Court on March 27, which was about two months after the lawsuit was filed.

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.

In the answer to the lawsuit, Doebler, Martin and the School Board said they held a hearing in 1993 to consider firing Acker after Hurt reported she had been molested by Acker in 1992.

A Shelby County grand jury did not indict Acker on the charges, and the School Board voted to allow Acker to resume teaching.

“Defendants Dr. Lee Doebler and Steve Martin had no information and no reports that Acker had engaged in misconduct of any kind, sexual or otherwise, between February 8, 1993 and January 4, 2012,” read the answer. “The Defendants discharged their official responsibilities in full accordance with the law; and Defendants Dr. Lee Doebler and Steve Martin may not be sued in their individual or public capacities based on the laws applicable to the facts of these claims.”