Disturbing Teacher Conduct Exposes School’s Negligence

A former West Virginia teacher and basketball coach, Ronald Paul Harris, was convicted of molesting a 14-year-old student while maintaining a “Top 10” list of “most attractive” middle school students. Now serving a 10-to-20-year prison sentence, the 63-year-old’s actions have led to a lawsuit against the Hancock County West Virginia Board of Education and former middle school principal, David Smith.

The plaintiff in the case, referred to in court documents as “E.H.,” is now 27 years old and is courageously coming forward to seek justice. Attorney Mary Pat Statler, representing E.H., emphasized the gravity of the case: “This case is a parent’s worst nightmare. To learn that your child was groomed by a teacher is beyond awful.”

The lawsuit contends that school administrators “turned a blind eye” to Harris’ perverse behavior at Oak Glen Middle School. The complaint alleges that Harris began “grooming” E.H. in his 8th-grade history class, eventually inviting her to work as his after-school helper once she started high school. Then, Harris began physically attacking her on at least ten occasions.

In one alarming incident, Smith, who has since been promoted to high school principal, reportedly caught Harris with E.H. inside a locked classroom during routine checks at the end of the school day. Instead of addressing the situation, Smith walked away, leaving the door locked. According to the complaint, “Harris was profusely sweating, visibly and audibly nervous and outwardly anxious, yet defendant Smith did not address either the locked door situation or his extremely odd, guilty behavior.”

Witnesses interviewed by E.H.’s lawyers stated it was “common knowledge” that Harris had masturbated multiple times on school grounds and kept the “Top 10 List” of most attractive middle school students. Yet, despite such deviant behavior, the school has been accused of “facilitating” E.H.’s endangerment by refusing to monitor Harris closely.

The lawsuit also highlights Harris’ marriage to a former student as a red flag that should have “put them on notice of his character and moral turpitude.” Thomas E. Buck, representing the school district, has yet to respond to requests for comment.

The case underscores the importance of schools and administrators remaining vigilant and proactive in protecting students from predatory behavior. The negligence displayed by the Hancock County West Virginia Board of Education and Smith has not only impacted E.H.’s life but may have left other victims in its wake. As attorney Mary Pat Statler says, “She’s a tough young woman, but certainly, this has shaped her entire life.”