Staff Writer

SEBRING — The School Board of Highlands County offered $75,000 to settle a lawsuit related to a student who attended Avon Park Middle School.

The offer has been accepted on behalf of the student who, according to the court document complaint, suffered “emotional distress and injuries” due to incidents at the school.

Deputy Superintendent Superintendent Andrew Lethbridge said the settlement has to be approved by the judge.

The civil negligence lawsuit was filed in November against the school district on behalf of a 13-year-old female student who was the alleged victim of then-teacher Kevin Dewberry over the time period of Oct. 1, 2017 through Feb. 4, 2018.

The complaint claimed the district was negligent for allowing the student to enter and remain in a classroom with Dewberry alone and unsupervised. Furthermore, it claimed the district negligently failed to intercede in the ongoing sexual assaults of which the student was a victim when the district knew or should have known of the misconduct.

On June 3, former school district teacher and basketball coach Dewberry, 45, accepted a plea deal giving him a 25-year prison sentence followed by 20 years of probation and the designation as a sexual predator.

Dewberry pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery, custodial authority.

He is currently incarcerated at the Mayo Correctional Institution Annex in Mayo (Lafayette County) with a current release date of Feb. 20, 2043.

The settlement amount is close to the amount the district settled to pay in another middle school related negligence lawsuit.

That civil lawsuit was related to the case of former Hill-Gustat Middle School teacher Stacy Lynn Hooks.

Hooks was arrested in 2016 and subsequently pleaded no contest to eight counts of lewd battery, nine counts of possession of child pornography, three counts of transmission of harmful material to a child, and one count of use of a computer to solicit a child.

The lawsuit involved the complaint filed by the attorney representing the parent of a student.

A settlement agreement of $80,000 was reached in September 2018.

Hooks was sentenced to a 20-year prison term in October 2017.

She is currently incarcerated at the Lowell Correctional Institute Annex in Ocala with a current release date of Feb. 12, 2036.


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