Parents are pushing for justice after they say their children were molested by their former school teacher, and now they are holding the school district accountable.
An attorney in Miami says two parents have filed lawsuits against the Collier County Public School Board in relation to the case against former teacher Hector Manley, 31, who taught their children at Parkside Elementary School.
Manley faces charges for 20 counts of lewd and lascivious molestation and three counts of sexual battery against more than a dozen former students. All charges are for crimes against victims under 12 years old by a suspect 18 years or older.
The parents during the school board claim its members failed to investigate Manley and protect their students.
“These are elementary school girls that he was preying on,” said Attorney Gregg R. Schwartz, who is representing the two parents in Collier County.
Students came forward to school leaders and said Manley took advantage of them in 2018.
“This teacher would touch the children, hold their hands, put their arms around them, put them on his lap in the classroom,” Schwartz said. “This was more than just an isolated occasion.”
Representing his clients, Schwartz claims some of the students could have been protected if something was done sooner.
“There was so many warning signs, and when you have those flashing and then have the he sexually assaulted three or four little kids and they are told, I can’t imagine why this was immediately investigated,” Schwartz said.
Jackie Stephens with the Children’s Advocacy Center says it’s important for educators to investigate any claims of sexual misconduct.
“If a child does come forward, it needs to be reported, so it can be investigated appropriately,” Stephens said.
Stephens says it’s not easy for kids to come forward, and adults should take it seriously when they do.
“It’s really important to speak up for kids because they can’t really protect themselves,” Stephens said.
Collier County Public Schools confirmed with us Monday it’s closed for the week and asked us to reach out about the case after the holidays next week.
Hector Manley is expected back in court in January, 2021.