Acker Jr. lawsuit likely on hold until 2015
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
A lawsuit brought against a former Alabaster teacher who pleaded guilty in 2012 to sexually abusing girls during his teaching tenure likely will not move forward until 2015, according to federal court documents.
The civil lawsuit was filed in 2013 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 four other unnamed plaintiffs.
The lawsuit was filed against Daniel Acker Jr., the Shelby County Board of Education, former School Board member Lee Doebler and current School Board member Steve Martin. 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.
According to court documents, a pretrial conference will be held within 60 days of April 13, 2015 if the lawsuit is not settled before then. If the lawsuit goes to trial, the trial will be scheduled “approximately 60 days after the pretrial conference date,” read the scheduling order.
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.”
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 Lee Doebler and Steve 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.”
Shortly after Hurt and the other three plaintiffs filed the lawsuit against Acker, the Shelby County Board of Education, former School Board member Doebler and current School Board member Martin filed court documents claiming the claims brought against them in the lawsuit are “barred by state and federal immunity.”
In October 2013, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit requested class-action status to open the case to “Any current or former female student during the time period that Dan Acker (Jr.) worked for (the) Shelby County School Board who was either injured, sexually harassed, abused or molested by Dan Acker (Jr.), or who witnessed such conduct or who was exposed to a sexually hostile education environment through Acker’s conduct.”
As of April 1, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins had not made a decision on the class-action request.