BOCA RATON — Four girls sexually abused by a teacher at Coral Sunset Elementary School when they were third-graders appear to finally be receiving some measure of justice.
The matter first came to light in 2005 when one of the girls informed her mother that the teacher in question—the appropriately-named Blake Sinrod, now 46—touched her in an inappropriate way during class and told her to touch his genitals through his pants.
Similar tales from three other girls led to an investigation that resulted in Sinrod’s firing in 2006. He pleaded guilty to child abuse charges in connection with 2 of the girls and his teaching license was revoked (somewhat belatedly, it would seem) in 2008.
It was the civil litigation that went less smoothly. When the third-graders’ families brought suit in 2006, the Palm Beach County School District stated in court documents that the girls were “old enough to appreciate the consequences of their actions” and “conducted themselves in a careless and negligent manner.” The administrator—the district contended—should not be held responsible.
It’s difficult to say which is the most shocking: the incidents of abuse themselves, the school district’s victim-blaming response or the fact that this shallow justification was allow to stand for nearly 12 years.
For the four third-graders—now adults—the end is in sight. The district is interested in settling the suit, and is expected to pay out $3.6 million to that end, pending approval of the school board on October 18th. The figure was arrived at via mediation, according to Marc Wites, an attorney for the school district.
“I don’t think a child can ever consent to being sexually abused,” Frank Barbieri, a member of the school board. “The school board never authorized such a defense.”
It’s a puzzling assertion about the revolting defense given documentation to the contrary, but in any event, the long and troubling chapter is due to close soon.
As to Mr. Sinrod, we can hope that whatever he’s doing now keeps him well out of contact with any children.