published: Sunday, October 07, 2012
SBHC has five lawsuits pending
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
LAKE PLACID -- In February 2011, Orestes Gonzales was arrested by the Highlands County Sheriff's Office, accused of sexually molesting female students in the Lake Country Elementary School's after-school program. The girls were all between 7 and 9 years old.
Gonzales was convicted of the charges in July and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Two sets of parents filed a civil lawsuit in May 2012. The suit claims the school administration disregarded reports of possible molestation for some time, and neglected to take any action. The suit also alleges that Gonzales, who was not a school or school board employee, was allowed unsupervised access to students by his wife, Maria Gonzales, 46, who did work in the after-school program.
On Oct. 2 three more families joined the suit.
Allen Sang, of Winter Haven, is the attorney for The School Board of Highlands County. He told the News-Sun Friday that he has not yet seen the new complaints, but he guessed they would be similar to those already on the docket.
"We're just beginning discovery," Sang said. "We're waiting on documents from the plaintiffs and the sheriff." It is too early in the process to have any comment, he added.
The first case is scheduled for February 2013 in U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida at Fort Pierce. That is where the lawsuits were filed.
Herman, Memelstein, Horowitz, PA, of Hollywood, are handling the case for the plaintiffs. The News-Sun was not able to reach the plaintiffs' attorney by press time.
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