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1/07/05 Settlement is reached in teacher-student sex case

BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Tulsa World (Final Home Edition),
Page A13 of News

The Tulsa school district paid $40,000 to settle a lawsuit linked to the conduct of a former teacher who had a sexual affair with a teenage boy. The former teacher, Brandi Kay Smith, is serving a four-year prison term on rape counts related to her relationship with the boy, who was one of her students. On his behalf and her own, the boy's mother sued Tulsa Public Schools in 2004. The civil action alleged that the district was negligent in failing to protect the child, failing to conduct adequate and thorough screening procedures for teachers and failing to train and supervise employees. Smith, now 25, was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Documents detailing settlement terms were filed Wednesday in Tulsa County District Court. The boy, who is now 17, received $22,300, and his mother received $7,300. The plaintiffs' attorneys, Stan Monroe and Patrick Adams, received $10,000 for their fees and costs. The remaining $400 was designated to pay for a court-ordered mediation between the mother and son, records show. A settlement order signed by Special Judge Russell Hass says the school district strongly denies the claims against it and does not admit any liability. One allegation in the suit was that the mother became fearful that Smith was developing a relationship with her son and reported her concerns to district representatives, but the district refused to take action until police became involved. The mother incurred expenses on behalf of her child and also experienced emotional distress and damage to her relationship with her son, Monroe said. In December 2003, District Judge Jesse Harris sentenced Smith to four years in prison plus three years of probation. She taught at Franklin Youth Academy, an alternative education program for middle and high school students in the 1100 block of South Yale Avenue. She pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree rape. Smith admitted having had sex with the boy, who was then 15, between December 2002 and February 2003. It was illegal for Smith to have sex with someone younger than 16, who by law was too young to consent. The rape counts contained no accusation of force or violence. Smith resigned from her job after school officials initiated termination proceedings. She recently filed a request for Harris to schedule a judicial review, at which time he could consider modifying her sentence. Harris denied that request for a hearing, records show. In the civil case, the school district acknowledged that Smith, "in direct violation of school district policy," had sexual relations with the boy "during non-school hours and at various locations away from school property." Smith's actions "were criminal and reprehensible," but the district did nothing to incur liability to the boy and his mother, the district asserted in documents. The plaintiffs maintained that while sexual acts occurred off school property, Smith began to develop the relationship at the school and during normal classroom hours. In the settlement, the district agreed to assist the boy in re-enrolling in the district's Adult Learning Center GED class and to waive or pay any related nominal expense, records show.

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