CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A judge won't dismiss a complaint filed by the Kanawha County school board against the mother of a boy who police say had been abused by his teacher.
Three students are set to go to trial next year in a lawsuit claiming the Kanawha County Board of Education could have protected them from alleged sexual abuse by Edwin Albert Smuda, a former JROTC teacher at South Charleston High School.
Earlier this year, three of Smuda's former students filed a lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court against his estate and the Board of Education, claiming the board was negligent and recklessly exposed the students, who were then juveniles, to Smuda.
Attorneys for the school board have denied the claims and filed a third-party complaint against the mother of one of the juveniles, stating that if the board is found liable the mother should also be held accountable because she "permitted and encouraged him" to associate with Smuda.
Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky on Wednesday denied a motion filed by the mother's lawyers to dismiss that complaint.
Attorney Karen McElhinny, who is representing the school board, said the mother operated a Facebook support page for Smuda.
"Numerous posts were made calling the accusers liars," she said. "I'm troubled that an adult would do that -- have a campaign against other kids in their child's school."
Robert Lorea, an attorney for the juveniles and the boy's mother, called the accusations "venomous" and said the mother didn't create the Facebook page. Her name was wrongly used by the person who actually created it, he said.
"We're here about a sexual abuse case. It's troubling the school board equates comments someone made on Facebook to be on par with sexual abuse," Lorea said.
He added after the hearing that he was "disappointed that the school board would use that defense.
He hopes to find out that lawyers are responsible for that defense, and "not our school board."
McElhinny said neither side has received records yet requested from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Once those records are reviewed, there would be more support for the complaint filed against the mother, she said.
Smuda, of Dunbar, was charged with first-degree sexual abuse by a parent or guardian in November 2011. In July last year, Smuda was found hanged in an apparent suicide at his sister's house in New Jersey. He was 59.