The hero of our story today is the school custodian.

Mr. Kominek was probably looking for a mop bucket when he opened the door to the janitor’s closet one day after school hours at Dundee Middle School in Michigan.  That’s not what he found.  What he found was Coach Neff and a girl (soon to be known as “Jane Doe, Plaintiff”) “engaging in sexual contact.”   Mr. Kominek promptly reported this incident to the A.D., who turned it over to the superintendent, who turned it over to the police and the child protection agency.  Coach Neff was later convicted of criminal sexual conduct and is currently incarcerated.  Well done, Mr. Kominek!

The parents of the girl later filed a lawsuit against the district, the superintendent and the A.D.  The suit alleged that the district and its officials should have known what was going on. The relationship between the coach and the girl had been going on for quite some time. There were rumors.  There were complaints from parents about how this particular girl seemed to get special treatment from the basketball coach.  In fact, the A.D. had previously cautioned the coach about texting players and sitting in the back of the bus with them.  Even the custodian, Mr. Kominek, had an inkling.  He testified that he had a “weird feeling” about the coach and the girl.

None of that was enough to convince the court that the school had sufficient notice of an inappropriate relationship.  One of the unique factors in this case was that the girl’s father was an assistant coach on the basketball team. In fact, the first time that Coach Neff kissed the girl was while he was watching a hockey game with the dad at the girl’s home.  The court summarized:

Doe and Neff intended to keep the relationship secret, and did so successfully until they were caught. Even Doe’s father, who was also coaching the team, was fooled. This fact gives rise to the inference that the other observers with more distant relationships to Doe were not at fault when they did not take action to remedy or report the unknown sexual activity.

Case dismissed.  But if Mr. Kominek had not reported what he saw, this case may have had a very different outcome.

The case is Campbell v. Dundee Community Schools, decided by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on October 13, 2016. We found it at 2016 WL 5939880.


 File this one under: LIABILITY