CARROLL, Ohio (WCMH) – A federal lawsuit has now taken aim Wednesday at the Bloom-Carroll Local School District’s athletic director and superintendent as well as the Ohio Department of Education, all in connection to a criminal sexual battery case against the suspended sports staff member.
Chad E. Little, 45, faces four felony counts of sexual battery against a student, Fairfield County Common Pleas Court records show. The incidents, in that case, spanned between March 1, 2018 and Sept. 30, 2020. However, the lawsuit — filed in the U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio by lawyers representing a former student claiming abuse by Little — claimed his conduct spanned years before and after, and now accused the athletic director of violating that student’s civil rights.
While the student identified herself in this lawsuit, NBC4 does not name victims of sexual abuse.
The lawsuit’s complaint document extensively details accusations against Little, saying that he engaged in “aggressive grooming” of the student he coached in the 2017-2018 school year. This included private calls and texts, which Little previously faced punishment for with past students, according to his personnel record. This went a step further in March 2018 when Little initiated physical contact with the student on a bus coming back from a game, which coincides with the time period listed in Little’s criminal case.
Little’s texts to the student turned sexual after this incident, the lawsuit said. The athletic director also began sexually abusing the student, who was a minor at the time, on school property, in Little’s office after games and at Little’s home. The assaults included choking, hitting and restraint. Further, the lawsuit listed Little as making pressuring comments to the student to keep them from telling anyone, including “I will go to jail,” and “I will lose my kids,” as the abuse went on.
The athletic director’s conduct extended to other students, and the lawsuit complaint gave examples of incidents it said various defendants were aware of. Scroll through the timeline below to view more:
The incidents formed a reputation for the athletic director, according to the lawsuit documents.
“Little’s inappropriate relationships with students were common knowledge at BCHS, discussed throughout the school hallways, lunchrooms and even in the presence of teachers and staff, who often participated in the conversations,” the complaint document read.
The other defendants were named for not taking appropriate action in response to what the lawsuit document claims was a history of misconduct by the athletic director. Specifically, the lawsuit targeted these people and groups:
- Bloom-Carroll Local School District
- BCLSD Board of Education
- Shawn Haughn, the superintendent
- Nathan Conrad, the principal of Bloom-Carroll High School
- Jan Wisecarver, the vice principal of BCHS
- Cynthia Freeman, the district’s Title IX Coordinator
- The Ohio Department of Education
Alongside listing the past complaints against Little involving interactions with students, the lawsuit also documented the district staff’s responses from 2013 through 2021. Despite the past superintendent warning Little in 2013 that his coaching contract would not be renewed if he was found texting students privately again, that didn’t happen when future complaints surfaced. Little’s personnel record indicated the district’s internal investigations confirmed he repeated texting with another student in 2019, but Haughn — who had since taken over leading the district — instead gave him reading and written essay assignments.
Little just renewed his three-year contract as athletic director in May for a $112,881 salary, but Haughn suspended him after Little was criminally charged with sexual battery. When NBC4 reached out to Haughn about the lawsuit, he said he could not comment on individual student matters, but said every report of staff misconduct gets the same treatment.
“The district promptly and thoroughly investigates each report,” Haughn wrote. “Investigations that may involve sexual harassment or abuse are investigated consistent with federal law and specifically by the Title IX coordinator … As the superintendent and father of three daughters that attend school in the district, the safety and wellbeing of our students is my top priority.”
A criminal defense attorney representing Little also responded.
“We have not been served with a copy of the complaint,” said Brad Koffel, of Koffel | Brininger | Nesbitt.
Leeseberg Tuttle, the same law firm that filed civil suits against Dr. William Husel, represents the student as the plaintiff in the federal lawsuit. The group is seeking compensatory damages to be determined by a jury, punitive damages and attorney fees from the defendants. Some of the 10 civil charges target all eight defendants, while others focus on a smaller group:
- Violation of Title IX (All defendants)
- 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Haughn, Little, Conrad, Wisecarver and Freeman) – This charge alleges the school supervisory staff were “uniquely aware” of Little’s conduct and turned a “blind eye” to complaints against him.
- 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (District and Board) – This charge alleges the district and school board established a policy or custom of “allowing sexual harassment, sexual grooming, sexual abuse and misconduct.”
- 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Ohio Department of Education) – This charge alleges ODE’s investigation into complaints about Little’s conduct with students was “woefully inadequate,” resulting in inadequate discipline against the athletic director.
- Civil assault and battery – Childhood sexual abuse (Little)
- Damages for criminal act (Little)
- Negligence (All defendants except ODE)
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress (All defendants except ODE)
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress (All defendants except ODE)
- Wanton or reckless conduct (Haughn, Little, Conrad, Wisecarver and Freeman)