Civil lawsuit filed in United States District Court against ISD 129, others

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

A civil lawsuit filed July 15 in United States District Court in Minneapolis names Montevideo Public Schools, Board of Education of Independent School District 129, then Principal Bill Sprung, then Superintendent Luther Heller as well as Brock DuMarce as defendants in a civil rights case.

The civil suit states in the Preliminary Statement “This is a civil rights case brought by the Plaintiff [redacted to protect victim’s privacy] to vindicate her daughter’s [redacted] constitutional and statutory rights to equal access to educational opportunities: rights that Defendants have violated.”

The lawsuit alleges that DuMarce, a paraprofessional at ISD 129, repeatedly groped a young elementary student’s buttocks at the elementary school she attended. The civil suit alleges that before the assaults, the school’s administration was “on notice of DuMarce’s prior sexual (and other) misconduct but retained him anyway.”

The civil suit presents information about a March 2019 incident in which DuMarce was charged in Chippewa County with disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process,  both misdemeanor charges that were later dismissed on the premise that the conditions had been met. 

The civil suit also says complaints were made about the hiring of DuMarce, including by faculty to Sprung, “expressing fear about the danger of allowing DuMarce access to elementary school children.” Additionally, the civil suit alleges that “complaints included Defendant DuMarce’s misconduct history prior to becoming employed as a paraprofessional at the District as well as his inappropriate behavior toward elementary school girls during his employment.”

In January 2020, DuMarce was charged with fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, a gross misdemeanor, in Chippewa County court System involving the incident that is the basis of the civil suit. DuMarce pleaded guilty March 16, 2020, acknowledging sexual misconduct in his plea letter to the courts, writing, “I touched the buttocks of a child when she hugged me.”

During the sentencing hearing for the January 2020 charges, the court granted DuMarce a stay of adjudication. A stay of adjudication in Minnesota means that there will be no conviction for the offense and the charge will ultimately be dismissed if the defendant meets the terms of the stay. DuMarce was placed on supervised probation for three years, to end March 16, 2024.

The board of education and the district are being represented by Alex Ivan and Jessica Schwie of Kennedy & Graven, Chartered.  Those attorneys have filed a response on behalf of their clients, which states the defendants “generally deny every matter and thing alleged in the complaint.” The response goes on to state that defendants jointly “admit only that DuMarce was a former District employee. Defendants deny all allegations of violations of law, harm, or interference with any rights held by Plaintiffs, whether under state, federal, or common law…. Defendants further deny Plaintiffs’ characterizations of the events and the allegations relating to specific incidences to the extent they are inconsistent with data maintained and kept in the regular course and scope of the operations of the District. Student and personnel data privacy laws prevent the District from speaking to specific incidents and actions taken, unless, and until Plaintiff and other data subjects provide needed authorizations or this Court enters an Order permitting the same.”

The response also says DuMarce was employed as a paraprofessional from Aug. 19, 2019, to Jan. 3, 2020. 

The defendant’s response also addresses allegations that a sufficient background check may not have been completed on DuMarce, saying, “the District conducts background checks on individuals offered employment in a manner that is consistent with Minnesota law.”

All information on the previous criminal charges was provided through public records in the Minnesota courts case files. All information from the civil suit was provided through the public records in the United States District Course case files.

Montevideo-American News will continue to cover this story as it develops.