Father of boy who civil jury says was sexually assaulted worries that teacher who did it is still near kids
Dallas County, TX – A Dallas civil jury found a teacher sexually assaulted an 11-year-old boy with autism. Now the child’s father is raising concerns about whether the teacher is still around children at the same school.
His son had attended Anderson Private School in Parker County for six weeks when, the civil jury found, Alexander Anderson, now 31, sexually assaulted the boy on an Oct. 31, 2014 field trip to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in Grand Prairie. The teacher, Alexander Anderson, lives with his parents in a nearby home that shares the same address as the school.
The father of the boy is afraid that Anderson may still have “access to kids,” he said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. The News does not typically identify victims of sexual assault or their families. The boy just turned 15.
The civil jury awarded the boy and his father more than $8 million in December after finding Anderson committed sexual assault and assault against the boy and after finding that Anderson’s parents had defamed the child’s father during a police investigation into the incident.
No criminal charges have been filed and Grand Prairie police closed the investigation. The case was tried in Dallas because Ripley’s is in Dallas County.
William “Rocky” Feemster, an attorney for the Andersons and the school, said Alexander Anderson, his parents and the school say no sexual assault occurred.
“My clients disputed the allegations and continue to do that,” he said. “My clients, especially Alexander Anderson, denied this even occurred.”
Feemster confirmed that Anderson still lives “contiguous” to Anderson Private School. Records show they share the same Fort Worth address on five acres in Parker County. Several buildings are located on the property, including the home where Anderson lives with his parents, who founded and operate the school.
Anderson also worked at the school and the school’s website still says he is on the staff, but Feemster says he stopped working for the school after the jury’s verdict.
Anderson does not have a criminal conviction and a civil jury’s verdict does not require him to register as a sex offender. So there’s nothing to prevent him from living close to a school.
In December, a jury awarded the boy $4,041,250 from Alexander Anderson “for the sexual assault and the assault,” according to court records. The same jury also awarded the father $1.75 million “for the defamation” by William Anderson and $2.5 million “for the defamation” by LeVonna Anderson. William Anderson is Alexander Anderson’s father and LeVonna Anderson is his mother.
The boy is a high functioning autistic child, according to his father. He attended regular classes in public school with the help of an aide until, as the school district grew, the father decided to look elsewhere. He chose Anderson Private School because it presented itself to the boy’s family as a safe environment with highly qualified teachers in a highly supervised environment. There were about 15 students enrolled when the boy attended, his father said.
The field trip
All students leave the school each Friday for “an adventurous experience” and they also take an overnight trip each year, according to the school’s website.
The father of the assault victim chaperoned the 2014 field trip to Ripley’s, which features a wax museum and an exhibit of odd but true events.
During the trip, the father said in an interview, he began to panic when he lost sight of his son.
Grainy, silent surveillance video shows the boy and his father in the lobby. The father walks into an adjacent room to talk to others on the field trip. John Sloan, the family attorney, said the father was asking other adults on the trip whether they were going through the exhibits as a single group or in smaller groups. In the video, the father picks up his belongings and walks back to the lobby.
Only seconds have passed, but his son is no longer in the lobby. Another camera recorded Alexander Anderson walking out of an exhibit and the boy following him back inside the exhibit.
The father said he found his son alone in the gift shop after they’d been separated about 11 minutes. At the time, the father said, he didn’t realize something had happened to his son while they were separated.
“It was during this field trip that Alexander Anderson preyed upon and sexually assaulted” the child, the lawsuit alleged. “Alexander Anderson was familiar with Ripley’s, as the Anderson School had taken field trips there in the past. As a result of his familiarity, Alexander Anderson knew Ripley’s did not have adequate security or adequate staffing in many areas of the premises and there would be ample opportunity to commit his intended sexual assault.”
The lawsuit said Alexander Anderson “took advantage of” the boy’s disability and “lured” him “into an area at Ripley’s where he knew they were alone and away from the group, and sexually assaulted” him.
Later, at home, the father began to worry that something had happened on the field trip. He told The News that his son, “told me later that evening that the teachers at his school were ‘mean.’ He had been super excited about school until then.”
The father phoned the son’s therapist, Sloan said. The therapist later met with the boy and then called the police.
According to medical records from Cook Children’s hospital in Fort Worth, the boy told a nurse specific details about the assault.
He also told the nurse “Alex is bad. I don’t like Anderson school.”
Grand Prairie police began to investigate the case Nov. 4. 2014, but said in a statement that there was not enough evidence to file charges.
“Both insufficient evidence and conflicting evidence hindered prosecution of this case,” the department said in a statement. “Should additional evidence become available, we will immediately re-open the case.”
Sloan said a flawed police investigation prevented a criminal case from moving forward.
“By allowing the adult suspect’s mother to be present during Alexander Anderson’s first and only interrogation, and by allowing her to dominate the interrogation with defamatory statement after defamatory statement about the victim’s father the GPPD investigation was tainted from the beginning,” Sloan said.
Typically, law enforcement investigators interview people separately or with only their attorneys present. When people are interviewed together, officers have a more difficult time determining their individual version of events.
The father said William and LeVonna Anderson told police and others that he was “on drugs” and was “outside using drugs” during the field trip. In the civil trial, the jury awarded part of the $8 million judgment for defamation after finding those allegations to be false.
Grand Prairie police declined to answer questions about whether defamatory statements against the father or interviewing Alexander Anderson and his mother at the same time damaged the investigation.
Feemster, the attorney for the Andersons, said the police investigation went nowhere because Alexander Anderson committed no crime.
The school does not have insurance, Sloan said. The Andersons’ homeowners insurance policy covers defamation, he said, but not money owed to the boy because of the sexual assault.
Earlier this month, the school, the Andersons and their insurance company came to an agreement with the father and his son on how to resolve the case. The agreement could be finalized soon, but the terms are confidential.
Feemster said his clients’ insurance company decided to settle rather than appeal. Both sides, he said, wanted to settle “to get away from each other” and have the case finished.
The News tried to reach the Andersons through the school. A man who answered the school’s phone declined to identify himself or answer questions about the lawsuit.
“It was a frivolous lawsuit. Nothing ever happened. It was done for money,” the man said before hanging up.
The father said he hopes Grand Prairie police carry on with the investigation.
The father said his son’s life will never be the same after the assault, adding that he is worried about other students at the school.
“We hoped to make it so he’s not a teacher anymore,” the father said. His son is “alive but he’s destroyed.”