A Liberty High School teacher who is accused in a civil lawsuit of sexually harassing and “grooming” multiple students for sexual gratification starting in 2010 was the subject of a recent criminal investigation, an official with the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office reported Monday.
Adam Acord Jr., 41, a Liberty teacher and tennis coach, is accused in a civil lawsuit filed by local attorney Paul Roop on Tuesday in Raleigh Circuit Court of sexually harassing at least five students, all female, while he was a teacher at Liberty and violating the civil rights of female students from 2010 to 2018, while a school principal and Raleigh Board of Education staff refused to intervene on behalf of the students.
Raleigh Sheriff’s Lt. M.A. McCray said Monday that his agency had investigated allegations into Acord’s conduct at Liberty and that the results of that investigation were turned over to Raleigh Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller.
McCray declined to detail specific information regarding the investigation.
He said that, to the best of his knowledge, the prosecutor had not yet presented the findings to a grand jury and that no charges had been filed as of Monday.
“More than one detective was assigned to it,” McCray said, adding that he did not have the exact date that his department had launched the investigation. “One of our school resource officers was involved, as well.
“There’s not been any charges filed in that case,” he added. “That’s all been turned over to the prosecuting attorney’s office.
“There was a grand jury submitted to the prosecuting attorney, but it’s not been presented to the grand jury, yet.”
He said he was unsure of the exact date that it was turned over to prosecutors.
Keller was not immediately available for comment on Monday morning.
In West Virginia, the age that a person may legally consent to sex is 16.
Federal law and West Virginia Department of Education policy mandates that public school boards must ensure that students have a learning environment that is free from sex-based discrimination, including sexual harassment by teachers.
The standard for criminal behavior is not the same standard for employment or for determining whether a teacher has violated the civil rights of a student.
Raleigh Schools Superintendent David Price said Thursday that Acord has been on administrative leave, which is paid leave, since November.
Two elected members of the Raleigh Board of Education reported Monday that the Raleigh BOE has not yet held a formal hearing to decide future employment of the teacher.
The board members reported that Price has told them for several months during executive BOE sessions, which are private, that no action can be taken regarding Acord’s employment, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
They reported that Price has told the board that a Raleigh assistant prosecutor has not released findings of the criminal investigation to BOE staff, which impedes the process of deciding about Acord’s employment.
One of the board members said that Price and other Raleigh Schools central office staff learned of the allegations against Acord in November, when the information was presented to law enforcement and to the BOE on the same day.
“By the time the board office got there (to Liberty), the police had already been there and taken his phone, computer,” a board member recalled a report that was made to BOE members in executive session. “That was the understanding of the board (that) the police got there right before we did, or on the same day.”
Price, who assumed the role of superintendent in July 2014, officially notified the board of the allegations and police investigation in November during an executive session, said the BOE member.
At least two board members had heard of the police investigation, prior to Price’s report to them, the board representative added.
The civil suit, filed by Roop on Tuesday on behalf of a former Liberty High student who is suing Raleigh Board of Education and Liberty principal Lori Knight, alleges that Liberty administrators and Raleigh school officials have been aware of Acord’s behavior but had failed to take action to protect students.
At least six teachers and several students had reported Acord’s alleged pattern of sexually harassing female students to Liberty administrators from 2010 to 2018, the suit charges.
Former Liberty principal Rocky Cangemi had allegedly notified BOE officials in 2014 of the charges against Acord, but the suit alleges that the BOE did not thoroughly investigate Cangemi’s report or speak to the two alleged victims.
The suit states that Acord had a notorious reputation for allegedly hugging and flirting with female students, that he played songs with crude and explicit lyrics in class and sometimes sang them with the artist, including a male performer’s song about statutory rape and a male artist’s song that referenced retaliation against a female who did not respond to him in a way he wanted.
In the suit, the girl charges that Acord sexually harassed her and “groomed” her for sexual exploitation from 2016 to 2018, primarily in her sophomore year, when he was her teacher, as he had done other female students, and that he retaliated against her when she made herself unavailable to him.
The suit alleges that Acord hugged the girl, who was under a doctor’s care for anxiety and depression, and that he had her sit with him in the school gymnasium on her lunch breaks throughout the fall of 2017.
He allegedly gave the girl a bag of gifts and a card in December 2017 that referenced the teen “waiting” a couple of years to be with him as a couple. When the girl’s mother discovered the card and gift, she ordered the girl to cut off non-educational contact with Acord, the suit reports.
The suit alleges that a teacher notified principal Knight of the gift in December 2017 and that Knight had observed the gift and saw Acord hugging the girl but did not address it.
When the girl withdrew from Acord’s advances in January 2018, he allegedly retaliated by publishing a poor grade to the class and embarrassing her publicly regarding her social life.
The suit alleges that the girl became withdrawn, had trouble eating and stopped taking her prescribed medication for anxiety and depression.
The girl reported that she withdrew from school early in the first semester of the 2018-2019 academic year due to her struggles with the alleged harassment and that Knight allegedly did not address the sexual discrimination or offer assistance as a means of helping her stay in school.