TAMPA — The mother of a victim in the case of Stephanie Ragusa, a former Hillsborough schoolteacher convicted of sexually abusing two male students, is suing Ragusa and the county School Board.
A lawsuit filed Thursday in Hillsborough Circuit Court accuses the board of negligence for failing to prevent the abuse and for hiring Ragusa without conducting a proper background investigation. The mother also seeks damages for pain inflicted on the boy.
Ragusa was sentenced in June to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to having sex with the two teens. The suit cites Ragusa's interactions with one of the boys, who was assigned to push Ragusa's wheelchair around Davidsen Middle School in October 2006 after she broke her foot.
Ragusa sexually assaulted the boy on at least three occasions, including once after taking him out of an after school tutoring program, according to the suit.
The school board knew that Ragusa had displayed inappropriate behavior to male students, including hugging and contact outside of school, but failed to take action that could have prevented the assaults, the suit said.
School Board spokesman Steve Hegarty said the board does not comment on pending lawsuits.
The victim suffered from depression and was taking special classes at the time of the incidents. Ragusa told the teen that he seemed shy and that she could help him overcome his shyness, authorities said.
The boy's mother testified at Ragusa's sentencing hearing, telling of the guilt her son felt after the incident and of the way she felt Ragusa manipulated the teens.
"She had access to their charts as far as their emotional behaviors," she said. "I feel that she was very conniving in picking these boys out and preying on them."
Dan Sullivan can be reached at (813) 226-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.