Headmaster at Governor French Academy files counter-suit; Parent claims sexual assault in underlying complaint

By Kelly Holleran | Dec 31, 2013

The headmaster at a private school in Belleville is denying allegations that he kissed one of his students as punishment or engaged in sexual harassment of any kind.

The headmaster of The Governor French Academy, Phillip Paeltz, filed a lawsuit Dec. 4 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Tory Taylor and his mother, Kristy Taylor. Another lawsuit claiming that Paeltz committed sexual assault was filed on Dec. 5 in St. Clair County Circuit Court by a boy, identified only as John Doe, and his mother, identified only as Mary Doe.

In their complaint, the boy and his mother allege Paeltz kissed Doe on the face as a way to punish him in December of 2011. Paeltz also would stand behind Doe so that when Doe leaned back in his seat with his hands on his head, his hands would touch Paeltz’s groin, according to the complaint. Paeltz performed similar actions on other students, the suit states.

In his own lawsuit, Paeltz says Kristy Taylor has falsely accused him of sexually abusing and harassing her son and of driving while intoxicated. Paeltz also references a Facebook message Tory Taylor sent to four fellow students at the Governor French Academy on Feb. 1.

“Tell everyone at GFA my mom has proof of fraud, liese (sic) deceptions, as well as abuse,” the message allegedly said. “My mom is setting up a meeting to inform everyone of the fraud, lies and abuse going on with Mr. Paeltz and GFA.”

Paeltz, however, contends that he is innocent and that the Taylors are tarnishing his name with their vituperative messages.

“Plaintiff has never engaged in any conduct which constitutes fraud, lies, deception or abuse of any GFA student or parent in his entire career at GFA,” the suit states. “Those statements have greatly injured plaintiff’s reputation, which has always been exemplary and good, in the community and serve to injure the business reputation plaintiff has as headmaster of the private school he founded in 1983.”

At the time of the alleged incidents, Doe was 16 years old, according to the complaint.

Due to Paeltz’s alleged actions, John Doe claims he suffered anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, trust and relationship issues, trouble sleeping and substance abuse issues, the suit states. He also suffered panic attacks, endured emotional injury, experienced pain and suffering and faces permanent psychological damage, the complaint says. He and his mother claim they incurred counseling costs.

In addition to Paeltz, Doe and his mother name The Governor French Academy as a defendant, saying it failed to educate employees regarding the risk of child abuse in its school, failed to adequately institute and enforce child protection policies, failed to adequately revise its process for selecting and monitoring teachers and failed to provide adequate training and education to its employees regarding the signs that a child is being abused.

In their complaint, the Does seek a judgment of more than $450,000, plus unspecified economic damages, attorney’s fees, punitive damages, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Matthew J. Marlen of Belleville will be representing them.

In his complaint, Paeltz is seeking compensatory damages of more than $100,000, plus costs.

Eric M. Rhein of Belleville will be representing Paeltz.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 13-L-605.

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