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Photo: Ken Ellis / Houston Chronicle
A former Katy High School student is suing the school district for mental anguish after an alleged sexual relationship with her high school art teacher.
The 20-year-old woman, referred to in court documents as Jane Doe, was 14 when she was allegedly approached by former Katy High School art teacher Robert Milton, 42. His advances initiated a four-year flirtation that led to a sexual relationship, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court against the Katy Independent School District and four other individuals involved.
In a statement Friday, Katy ISD officials said the district “cares deeply about its obligation to maintain a safe learning environment and works aggressively to investigate all allegations pertaining to the well-being of our students and staff. The District will continue to work with law enforcement and other agencies to ensure the safety and security of all students.”
Aside from Milton, the defendants include former Katy ISD superintendent Alton Frailey, current Katy High School principal Lance Hindt and former Mayde Creek High school principal Obra “O.D.” Thompkins, Jr.
The complaint states Katy ISD personnel knew about Milton’s inappropriate behavior with female students for more than a decade and did nothing. Milton allegedly pursued another underage student at Mayde Creek High School in 2000 and school administrators “conspired with Milton to conceal the inappropriate conduct and help him transfer to another school,” according to the lawsuit.
Milton was married at the time, and that student fled to Louisiana to “escape the abuse,” according to the woman’s attorneys.
Texas law prohibits inappropriate relationships between teachers and students. Last month, the Texas Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 7, which states that failure by administrators to report teacher misconduct could lead to a Class A misdemeanor. Intentionally not reporting misconduct could result in a state jail felony. That law opens the door to these types of cases.
According to the lawsuit, Milton met Doe while she was a freshman in 2011. He later approached her in an “overtly friendly and flirtatious” way. He then contacted her on social media and “sexted” her pictures of his penis. He continued his advances throughout her sophomore and junior year.
Other Katy High School students allegedly told school administration about Milton’s inappropriate nature with female students, but nothing came of the reports.
In the fall of 2014, Milton approached the plaintiff and told her he was cheating on his wife. She was too embarrassed to report this, but thought it was “too much information for a teacher to be sharing.” Milton then began messaging her on social media.
It was during the plaintiff’s senior year in 2015 that a sexual relationship with Milton began.
Milton requested that the teen schedule her senior photos to be taken by him at the Houston Sculpture Garden. She agreed, then when it began to rain, Milton and the girl went inside his car. Milton allegedly “forced himself on Doe physically.”
Ultimately, the girl was “coerced” into a romantic relationship with Milton while he was still her teacher. Milton would often pay for hotels to have sex after school or pick her up in his car for sex, according to court documents.
A police officer once caught them having sex in a car in Brookshire, but the officer let Milton and the student go when she explained that she was of legal age and was consenting to the act, a July 2016 statement alleged.
In June 2015, she graduated and left for college out of state. When she realized she had been manipulated by Milton, she ended the relationship.
“Traumatized” by the events, the teen told her parents and sought psychological treatment. Her parents reported the relationship to Katy ISD and then discovered Milton’s past.
Katy ISD reported the abuse and Milton was arrested and charged with improper relationship with a student in July 2016. He was released on a $30,000 bond.
The district placed Milton on administrative leave after becoming aware of the investigation, and Milton resigned a few days later.
He entered a guilty plea on November 2016, then accepted deferred adjudication for four years.
As a result of the multi-year relationship, the plaintiff is experiencing severe anxiety, emotional distress, nightmares and other “physical symptoms” of trauma, according to the complaint. She has received counseling and psychotherapy treatment after suffering “severe impairment to her reputation,” and losing educational and job opportunities as a result of Milton’s transgressions.
Before her daughter filed the suit, the plaintiff’s mother sent a public information request to Katy ISD appealing for information about any previous or ongoing investigations into Milton’s improper relationships with students.
According to the lawyers, Milton targeted a third victim in 2012, but Katy ISD attorneys appealed to the Texas Attorney General to sanction their withholding the information, stating the documents are “protected from disclosure by the constitutional and privacy interests of the then-minor female student.”
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