By Carra Higgins
The trial of a former Independence Middle School science teacher, indicted in September on two counts of possession of material visually portraying a minor in sexually explicit conduct, is scheduled for April 16 in Raleigh County Circuit Court, the prosecutor’s office reported.
Michael Jason Dickens was arrested June 9, 2011, by West Virginia State Police for soliciting a minor via computer after the mother of a former female student, referred to as “Jane Doe #1,” reported to authorities online exchanges between Dickens and her daughter.
The mother filed a civil harassment complaint against the Raleigh County Board of Education and Dickens, both as a school employee and personally, in July 2011.
Since the original complaint, two other minor females, known in the complaints as “Jane Doe #2” and “Jane Doe #3,” also filed civil harassment charges against the BOE and Dickens alleging sexual exploitation by Dickens.
The suit by “Jane Doe #3” has been settled out of court while the two others are pending settlement approval by Judge John A. Hutchison.
Jane Doe #3’s civil suit was dismissed with prejudice Jan. 18 by Judge John Hutchison after he was notified that an agreement between the parties had been reached after working with a mediator in December.
The mediator also said in his letter to Hutchison that he had met in December with Jane Does #1 and #2, their counsel and the defendants, but a mediated agreement could not be reached at that time.
Since then, counsel for both girls have requested that the court approve settlement terms that were recently negotiated.
A guardian ad litem, an attorney to ensure that the negotiated monetary settlement in the civil suit is in her best interest, was appointed for Jane Doe #1. Her suit charged that in May 2011 she sent photos of herself to Dickens after he requested them.
The guardian ad litem has told Hutchison that the settlement is in the girl’s best interest, according to court documents. Hutchison has not made a ruling on the settlement approval, however.
A guardian ad litem has also been appointed for Jane Doe #2; however, the attorney’s response to the court has not yet been filed. The case was filed in July.
Her complaint alleges that when she was a student at Independence High School, Dickens arranged meetings with her in his automobile and made sexual comments and advances. Approximately a year later, she met with Dickens’ wife and let her hear a sexually explicit voice mail allegedly left by Dickens.
Dickens’ wife and an IHS teacher, from whom she sought advice, approached then-IMS Principal Terry Poe about the relationship with Jane Doe #3, as well as the possibly other students.
The complaint states Poe gave Dickens a verbal reprimand and suggested the Dickenses attend church. The complaint also says that Poe did not inform the BOE about the allegations. Nor were Jane Doe #3’s parents informed about the claims or of a meeting to discuss the allegations among Jane Doe #3, Poe and Assistant Superintendent David Severt.
Two days after Dickens’ arrest in 2011, Poe announced his early retirement.
The board of education is represented in these suits by Chip E. Williams. Joanna I. Tabit is counsel for Dickens. The three plaintiffs are represented by Michael Olivio, Travis Griffith and Benja-min Salango. The mediator is Charles S. Piccirillo.