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New criminal charges, civil suit filed in Fairbanks school abuse case

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- The state has filed three additional felony charges against former high school tutor Claude Fowlkes III, 34, stemming from allegations of sexual abuse and sexual abuse of a minor in 2010. He also faces seven felony charges in connection with abuse allegations from the first three months of 2014.

Meanwhile, a former Fairbanks family filed a civil lawsuit against the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District seeking hundreds of thousands in damages for alleged abuse that took place early this year. The family charged that the district failed to protect their 15-year-old son from a sexual predator on school grounds.

The former Hutchison High School tutor was arrested in March on seven felony counts of sexual abuse of a 15-year-old.

The new charges, filed June 10, relate to allegations of sexual assault and sexual abuse of a minor in September and October 2010, with a victim or victims under 16. According to the state CourtView website, the Fairbanks court issued a new warrant Friday and a charging document remains pending.

The civil suit, also filed Friday on behalf of the 15-year-old does not specify damages, other than to say they are in excess of the $100,000 minimum required in Alaska Superior Court. The lawsuit also says the plaintiffs are seeking "punitive damages sufficient to deter the district from recklessly allowing another child to be sexually abused."

The 15-year-old, a former student of Hutchison High School, and his family have moved out of state and the lawsuit does not identify the child or his parents. The names have been filed in confidential court documents.

Fairbanks attorney Mike Kramer, who is representing the family, said the district failed to investigate and supervise the employee who abused the child. He said the district showed "inexcusable incompetence" in keeping the employee on the payroll and knowing he was a danger, "while supplying him with victims and failing to warn parents."

Fowlkes has entered a plea of not guilty to the earlier charges, with a trial set for August.

Fowlkes had a series of jobs with the district from 2006 to 2014, though he faced several investigations and allegations of inappropriate conduct and repeated complaints. He received a positive job evaluation just months after an investigation found that he had violated policies at another school.

The lawsuit said the district acted with "reckless indifference" to the rights of the child and that the boy was "raped on multiple occasions by a district employee on school grounds."

The school board has fired Superintendent of Schools Pete Lewis in response to an internal investigation that followed Fowlkes' arrest, blaming him for mishandling the case.

Dermot Cole can be reached at dermot@alaskadispatch.com.


By DERMOT COLE
DERMOT@ALASKADISPATCH.COM