Wednesday, January 12, 2000

Parents ‘sick,’
then angry about
molestation case

The parents say their girls
were queried twice by their
principal about the allegations
before being told what was going on

By Debra Barayuga


It was any mother's nightmare when Cynthia Davis got a call from a military criminal investigator in late January 1995, saying her daughter may have been sexually molested by a teacher at Mokapu Elementary.

"You must have the wrong Davis," was her initial reaction when the investigator told her that fourth-grade teacher Lawrence Norton had been arrested.

About the same period, Marine parent Mary Draughn learned from the Sunday paper that Norton, one of her daughter's favorite teachers, had been indicted for molesting Mokapu students. Her daughter confirmed she had been touched by Norton.

"To have your own child tell you some man put his hands where it ain't supposed to be ... I was completely devastated," said Draughn.

Parents Steven and Cynthia Davis and Mary and Benjamin Draughn have sued the state Department of Education alleging it failed to exercise reasonable care to protect the children. The nonjury trial began yesterday before Circuit Judge Sabrina McKenna.

The parents allege the department breached its duty by not looking into allegations of pedophilia against Norton after allegations first arose at the school in the fall of 1991. Norton returned to the classroom after he was found not guilty in January 1993 in the 1991 case.

During opening statements yesterday, Deputy Attorney General George Hom said the state is not liable for damages sought by the parents because the school didn't know of the 1991 allegation until Norton was indicted in February 1992, at which time Norton was transferred to a nonteaching position in the department.

A new principal took over at Mokapu just weeks after the allegation surfaced and is expected to testify he wasn't told of the charges.

The department tried to get information about the allegations from prosecutors but were denied, and Norton would not comment on the allegations on the advice of his lawyer, Hom said.

Davis said she felt sick inside and was shaking when she she got the call about the alleged molestation and had to steady herself on the counter. Those feelings were later replaced by anger when she learned the school principal had interviewed her daughter twice without the school notifying either her or her husband.

"Not to be informed of something with that much gravity is inexcusable in my mind," Davis testified.

Draughn testified her daughter also revealed that the principal had questioned her on two occasions without the parents' knowledge. Her daughter said she told the principal that Norton would hug her and rub his hands down her side and buttocks.

Just six to eight months earlier, she had met with the principal asking him about Norton because another mainland parent had told her the teacher had been under investigation previously for molesting a child.

The principal had assured her that while Norton had been under investigation in early 1991, he had been found not guilty and the girl had made up the story.

When asked if her daughter was safe, he replied, "Absolutely. (Norton's) been exonerated."

After her daughter's disclosure, the Draughns confronted the principal the next day. He told them he was conducting a school investigation and wasn't obligated to inform them.

"I didn't understand that at all," Draughn said. "We're talking about a minor, a (then) 10-year-old child."

Within six days, Draughn and her two children left for the mainland because her daughter no longer felt safe on the base or in Hawaii, leaving behind her husband to finish his tour of duty.

Hom said there is no evidence that Norton was left alone with the two girls during the lunchroom visits in his classroom or that he sexually molested them during those periods.

Under questioning, the girls had told the principal was that while Norton gave them hugs at the end of the lunch period, his hand sometimes brushed their buttocks and they would walk away, Hom said.

Based on that representation, the principal didn't feel Norton's actions amounted to sexual assault.

Hom also pointed out that two juries acquitted Norton of charges brought by the girls.

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