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School system decides to settle harassment suit with ex-student

The family of a former Land O'Lakes High student who said she had a relationship with assistant principal Norman Weaver has accepted a $50,000 offer to settle a lawsuit against the school district.

U.S. District Court Judge Steven D. Merryday dismissed the suit Oct. 27 after the settlement was reached in mediation. Even so, the settlement is not official until the School Board grants its final approval when it meets Nov. 18.

The family of the student, who graduated in 1996, filed the suit in March against the School Board, former Superintendent Thomas Weightman, the school's former principal and Weaver.

Weaver, however, still faces additional litigation.

Joe McClain, the School Board's attorney, said Weaver, represented by private counsel, could not reach his own settlement agreement with the student's family.

As a result, the family is expected to refile its suit against him alone in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court.

Weaver, who is now a supervisor in the school district's Planning and Facilities Department, said he is not interested in settling the case. "I don't have any money," he said.

In any event, Weaver said, "I'm looking forward to my day in court. I disavow, deny and offer no acknowledgement of the allegations against me."

McClain said the School Board admits no liability in settling the case. Instead, he said a settlement simply made financial sense.

"It would cost us twice as much to fight this at trial," he said. "From an economic standpoint, since we don't admit liability, it just made sense to get rid of it."

The former student's family and attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Weaver befriended the student as early as the fall of 1993, and from her sophomore year, the two met almost daily, the lawsuit alleged. By her junior year, the two began giving each other gifts and Weaver displayed pictures of the student in his office, the suit said.

In the spring of 1995, the student's mother, a substitute teacher at the school, approached Weaver and told him she thought the relationship was inappropriate, the suit said.

In February 1996, another teacher overheard Weaver, then 52, make a dinner date with the 17-year-old student, and the teacher reported the conversation to principal Albert Bashaw, the suit said.

Bashaw directed Weaver to stay away from the student, the suit said.

The student's family said Weaver and their daughter later met in a Hillsborough County park, where they kissed, caressed and fondled.

In April 1996, school officials were tipped off to the relationship by an anonymous caller. The Sheriff's Office investigated, but no charges were filed against Weaver, who had an unblemished 18-year career in Pasco schools.

As a condition of the settlement, School Board attorneys also agreed to make a greater effort to inform students and their families about how to go about reporting allegations of sexual harassment by teachers.

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.