BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A class action lawsuit has been filed against a Maryland private high school and a former teacher after the teacher was arrested on charges related to an inappropriate relationship with a student.
Hassan Murphy represents the 15-year-old victim and says her history teacher at Saint Frances Academy, Ryan Penalver, preyed upon her — sending lurid texts and emails from his school account then sexually assaulting the teen. He allegedly tried to cover it up, making her use the pseudonym “Bubble Gum” for him in her phone.
Murphy revealed the stunning way the abuse allegations came to light.
According to the class action lawsuit that Murphy just filed, “Penalver previously had engaged in inappropriate communications with minor students.”
No other victims have come forward, but Murphy believes there could be more based on his independent investigation.
The school made headlines last month for removing Bill Cosby’s name from the community center the day of his sexual assault conviction. Cosby and his wife donated millions to the school.
After Penalver’s arrest, the school’s principal wrote a letter to parents saying he was no longer an employee and that Saint Frances was committed to providing a safe environment.
Police have said they don’t know of any other victims.
The lawsuit names the Archbishop of Baltimore, but the Archdiocese made clear that it doesn’t operate Saint Frances Academy.
The Oblate Sisters of Providence run the school. WJZ reached out to the order and has not heard back. But WJZ did hear from the school’s principal, who says he cannot comment on ongoing litigation.
Murphy claims Saint Frances Academy ignored red flags about the teacher and bears some responsibility.
Penalver has been charged with six counts including sexual abuse of a minor. He’s been released on his own recognizance, which means no bail money is paid to the court and no bond is posted. The suspect has been released after promising, in writing, to appear in court for all upcoming proceedings.
A preliminary court hearing is set for June 12.