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Molestation case settled, but boy's family isn't

HUDSON — A boy who was molested last year by his preschool teacher won a $250,000 settlement in court on Tuesday.

It was a relief but hardly a cure-all for his family, whose troubles since that horrific revelation have only multiplied.

The boy was 5 when the abuse occurred in June at Sugar Plum First Class Preschool on New York Avenue. Pasco authorities accused Brian Michael Lane, a teacher there, of fondling him during nap time.

Lane, 30, pleaded guilty in November and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The boy's family filed suit right away. His father said the settlement money will be held in trust and used for the boy's health care and therapy.

"We did that so that nobody would think I'm trying to get rich off my kid's problems," the father told the Times. His name is being withheld to protect his son's identity.

A message left at Sugar Plum was not returned Tuesday. The boy's father said the settlement included a clause in which the preschool accepts no liability for the abuse.

The boy, now 6, still struggles. He gets counseling every week and had to transfer to another school after his 7-year-old brother told the other kids at school what had happened. They called him names.

"The kids didn't understand," the father said.

So now his older son is in therapy, too, and the counselors have recommended that the brothers have separate bedrooms as a precaution. That's because the abuse came to light when the younger boy acted out sexually with another child at the preschool.

"We're getting through it," the father said.

But that's only part of the story. There are more problems that were self-inflicted.

The father is 42 and disabled by nerve damage and botched surgeries. He's also an alcoholic who had two years of sobriety behind him. But one night about two months ago, his wife was hospitalized for mental health problems. She has struggled with depression since the ordeal happened with their son.

After the kids were in bed, the father turned to Southern Comfort, his old standby.

The next morning, his older son couldn't wake him up. So the boy did what he should, the father said, and called 911.

The father was not charged with anything. But a week later, the boys and their 3-year-old sister were taken away and put in foster care.

"I shouldn't have done it," the father said. "There's no excuse."

Now social workers are looking at his dark past — the drinking, the physical abuse from his first marriage. He went through batterers' intervention then, and will have to again. He is taking parenting classes. He has never stopped going to alcoholics' support group meetings.

"They were never abused," he said of his children. "I neglected them that morning, and I admit that."

But, he wonders, how is this helping?

"Somebody probably should have realized that we've been through a lot," he said.

Privacy laws prevent child welfare workers from discussing individual cases.

For now, the parents see their children one hour a week — Friday mornings, at a visitation center in a church. The older boy always brings his schoolwork for his dad to look at. The younger one, the abuse victim, cries for the first 10 or 15 minutes because he wants to come home.

Their daughter has been put in day care. This makes her father's stomach turn.

And now the family is running out of money. The mother works as a nurse's assistant at a nursing home. The father's disability payments are now divided: His check still comes, but the kids' checks were diverted after they were taken out of the home.

The father said he wishes the authorities had just put him in jail that day two months ago.

Instead, he says, they punished his children.

"It's hurting them more than me," he said. "Well, it's hurting me too, but they're kids."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Molestation case settled, but boy's family isn't 03/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 10:20pm]
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