JC schools, administrators dropped from federal suit over teacher

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey this week dismissed the Jefferson City Public School District and two of its high school administrators as defendants in a civil lawsuit filed last summer.

Laughrey’s order dropping the district and the two administrators was “with prejudice,” meaning they cannot be sued again over the issues raised in the case.

Columbia attorney Thad Mulholland filed the lawsuit last July on behalf of a teen — who graduated from Jefferson City High School in May 2013 — who had been involved in a physical relationship with former band teacher Christopher Knehans.

In the lawsuit, the teen was identified only as Jane Doe.

The 62-page suit accused the school district, High School Principal Paul Dodson and Assistant Principal Tammy Ridgeway of failing to prevent Knehans from becoming involved with the girl.

Knehans also was named as a defendant and, after Laughrey’s order Tuesday afternoon, is the only defendant left in the lawsuit.

On Sept. 12, 2012, Knehans pleaded guilty in Cole County circuit court to two felony counts of sexual contact with a student.

On Feb. 20, 2013, Judge Dan Green sentenced Knehans to 60 days in jail for his guilty plea to the second count, and to three years supervised probation on the first count, with a suspended imposition of any sentence.

Any court finding that he violated the probation could result in Knehans being sent to prison for up to four years.

Neither his attorney, Scott Hamblin of Jefferson City, nor Mulholland responded Wednesday evening to a request for a comment for this story.

Christopher P. Rackers of Jefferson City, the school district’s attorney in the case, confirmed Laughrey’s order but didn’t comment on it.

Laughrey’s order said Mulholland agreed to drop the district, Dodson and Ridgeway as defendants, filing a consent motion to dismiss them from the case, permanently.

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