Lawsuit filed against Lee County school board alleges failure to protect students

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Mariner High School. (Google Maps photo)
Mariner High School. (Google Maps photo)

Allegations of negligence, failing to protect students, and allowing students to be preyed upon are being made against the Lee County school board and the subject of a newly filed lawsuit.

The claims also involve a former Mariner High School coach who’s now in prison.

The 24-page federal lawsuit lays out how former basketball coach James Harris preyed on students, and did so as he taught at the high school for nearly 15 years.

Fort Myers attorneys Dennis Webb and Terry Cramer filed the lawsuit Thursday.

Ex-Mariner High basketball coach James Harris

Their client, listed in the suit as “Jane Doe” had a sexual relationship with her then-45-year-old teacher when she was just 17 years old.

Detectives arrested Harris in February 2017.

However, the attorneys allege their client wasn’t Harris’ first victim.

Roughly six months after graduation, that student gave birth, and a judge ordered Harris to pay child support after a paternity test.

Because the child support came out of Harris’ School District of Lee County paycheck, these attorneys claim the school board should have known about harris’s initial relationship with a student.

MORE: Cape Coral teacher pleads guilty to sex with student

Harris continued teaching the school and the attorneys claim he “was left free to sexually prey upon vulnerable female students at Mariner high school.” They argue this is a Title IX violation – a federal civil rights violation.

Harris pleaded guilty to having sex with a student last February and a judge sentenced him to 11 years in prison.

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