By Steve Green
Friday, March 20, 2009 | 2 a.m.
A teenager who engaged in sexual activity with a Durango High School teacher is now suing the Clark County School District, alleging it had been warned the educator was a danger to students but took no action.
The suit was filed March 5 in Clark County District Court, a little more than two weeks after former teacher Angel Menes was sentenced to between 16 and 48 months in prison for his crimes.
A spokesman for the school district, Michael Rodriguez, said the district does not comment on pending litigation. But speaking generally, he said it’s the district’s policy to investigate complaints of wrongdoing by school personnel.
“The safety of our students is very important to us,’’ he said.
Menes, 39 when he was arrested in April 2008, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of sexual conduct between a school employee and a pupil; and to one misdemeanor count of open or gross lewdness. In pleading guilty, he admitted to having sex with two students while he was a driver’s education teacher at the school.
The lawsuit, filed by “Jane Doe” to protect the plaintiff’s identity, said she was a student and Menes was a teacher last year at Durango and that in April 2008 Menes convinced the plaintiff to engage in sexual activity with him.
The sexual activity apparently was consensual until, the suit says, “Menes touched plaintiff Jane Doe inappropriately and forced her” to perform a sex act. The plaintiff says that more than a year prior to this incident, a sister-in-law of Menes sent a letter to the Clark County School District “about Mr. Menes’ various sexual proclivities, drug usage and violent temper.’’
But the school district did not contact the woman or Menes about the February 2007 letter warning the district about Menes, the suit alleges.
Rodriguez said the district is aware that the woman says she sent the district such a letter, but has been unable to locate it or confirm receipt of it. On Thursday, he said the district was still looking for the letter. Jane Doe also claims that prior to April 11, 2008 — the date of an incident with a student that led to Menes’ arrest — the school district was warned by another student that Menes was attempting to have sex with her.
“W. Doe, another student, spoke with the Clark County School District police about actions that Menes was taking with her,’’ the suit charges. “Despite this, the Clark County School District police did nothing. No investigation was done whatsoever … The CCSD police told W. Doe not to worry about the problem,’’ the suit says.
Jane Doe, who says she suffered physical and emotional injuries, says the school district was negligent in hiring Menes, in failing to investigate his background and in failing to act on reports about his sexual activities.
The suit also names Menes as a defendant. It seeks general and punitive damages that are not specified but that are more than $10,000 apiece; along with restitution for the plaintiff’s past and present medical expenses associated with the sexual assault.
It’s unclear if the Jane Doe suing Menes and the School District is the same sophomore student whose relationship with Menes is spelled out in a Metro Police arrest report from his arrest on April 12, 2008.
That report says the 16-year-old student and Menes began exchanging e-mails in February 2008 and the relationship progressed to instant messaging and sexual contact. When confronted by police, Menes confessed to performing sex acts with the student and asking her to send him photos of her nude or scantily clad. She did send him such photos using her cell phone camera, the arrest report said. On April 11, 2008, after Menes allegedly forced her to perform a sex act, she called her mother in tears. Her mother then called police, which led to his arrest.
The suit against the school district was filed by Las Vegas attorneys Robert Murdock and Eckley Keach.
Steve Green can be reached at 990-7714 or firstname.lastname@example.org.