Camden Military Academy headmaster groomed other students, new motion in sexual harassment suit claims
CAMDEN, SC (WIS) - A new motion has been filed against Camden Military Academy in an ongoing civil lawsuit that now includes a new allegation that the school's dean of students did succeed in grooming another student and having sex with him.
The new motion filed on Aug. 28 in U.S. District Court in Columbia is an amendment to the 2017 lawsuit filed by the parents of a former CMA student, listed as "A.M." The lawsuit claims John Heflin, the dean of students, sent him sexually abusive and explicit text messages while he was enrolled at the academy.
The parents of A.M. - Amanda and Deryck Santos, claim their son was taken advantage of due to the untimely death of his grandfather in April 2016. Santos said she and her husband discovered an inappropriate relationship between her son and an administrator and instructor at the school, Heflin.
Two administrators at Camden Military Academy were added to the lawsuit in July. The pair - Col. Eric Boland and Ltc. [Ret.] Brad Lawing - are accused of failing "to exercise even slight care in the hiring, training, supervision, and/or retention" of the man they've accused of harassing their son while he was a student at the school and "maintained a culture of secrecy" in response to allegations.
The new motion cites that A.M., who is now of age and identified in the civil action, was not Heflin's only student-victim. While A.M.'s allegations say Heflin's advances were only verbal and communicated via text messages and unrecorded conversations, the administrator did succeed with another student.
"Other former students of CMA have also alleged that Heflin engaged in similar grooming conduct with them, in an effort to ultimately perform a physical act with them at Heflin's personal residence," the suit states. "At least one of the students alleges that Heflin ultimately succeeded in having sexual physical contact with him."
The suit goes on to say that the only reason Heflin wasn't successful in physically assaulting A.M. was his mother intervened on an attempt by the older man to have her son stay the night on Thanksgiving at Heflin's home.
The suit continues that Heflin's co-workers and bosses knew of the allegations and were encouraged not to report the activity to law enforcement by Lawing and Boland.
The parents are seeking a jury trial and $75,000 in damages.
In addition, a position was also filed by Heflin's lawyers, stating that a request was made to the plaintiff's to organize and review the alleged text messages at the heart of their civil suit. The plaintiffs responded, saying the teen was no longer in possession of the phone.
Furthermore, Heflin's attorneys claim that A.M. was re-enrolled to Camden Military Academy to gather evidence against the dean of students to pursue a lawsuit.
Heflin's attorneys say the suit has "no merit."
The school, along with Heflin, strongly denies the allegations in legal filings and a statement sent to WIS when asked in October 2017.
"At no point in time was Camden Military Academy contacted by the family or former student with any questions or concerns relating to these allegations. CMA only learned of the allegations shortly before the filing of the lawsuit and only then by an attorney. We are not aware of any information to support the allegations against CMA or John Heflin and the allegations are denied," the school wrote in a statement in October 2017. "CMA stands by its mission statement to educate and inspire our students so they have an opportunity to achieve their maximum potential and gain the educational foundation to succeed in college and life as productive, contributing citizens."
The school hoped then that the case would be dropped.
In a 2012 lawsuit against the school, two Georgia parents alleged their son was brutally hazed, sometimes sexually, at Camden Military Academy. Ultimately, a jury sided with the school.
You can read the documents here:
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