HAHNVILLE – The latest allegations in a sex abuse case involving Destrehan High School teacher Shelley Dufresne were revealed in a lawsuit filed by a student and his parents against the English teacher, colleague Rachel Respess and the St. Charles Parish Public School System.
The lawsuit, filed in the 29th Judicial District Court, alleges that Dufresne flirted with the 16-year-old student in class during the 2014-2015 school year and reached out to him on social media when he was not in class. These communications led to a sexual relationship with the student, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit was originally filed on Aug. 11, 2015 and was later amended on Feb. 25, but was only recently known to the public.
Dufresne also has been charged in related criminal cases. In one case, she confessed to having sex with the student in question at her home. Dufresne is married and has three children. A criminal case is also pending in Jefferson Parish. In that case, Dufresne is facing charges that she had sex with the student at Respess’ residence. Respess was charged in the Jefferson Parish case with failing to report Dufresne’s actions to authorities. Both teachers have entered pleas of not guilty.
John M. Seryak, vice president of the national organization Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation (S.E.S.A.M.E.), said the Dufresne cases show that not enough was done within the St. Charles Parish school system to protect students from abuse.
“They were ill-trained to deal with the situation,” Seryak told the Louisiana Record.
He said it appeared that it was “well known by enough people that action should have been taken.”
Seryak said the classroom teachers, the school administrators and the school board in the system “certainly have a responsibility to protect the children,” and that the St. Charles district was slow in training educators about dealing with sexual misconduct in the classroom. He also said administrators were slow to make the appropriate response to the situation.
“The district has a long way to go," Seryak said. “Today we should be much farther down the road.”
According to Seryak, one provision of a federal statute adopted by the Obama administration, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), prohibits the aiding and abetting of abuse for schools that receive federal funding. He said the statute provides leverage because the schools risk losing their federal funding if they do not provide the appropriate training to educators and staff regarding sexual abuse, and do not adequately respond to incidents of abuse.
Seryak said 496 teachers were arrested nationally in 2015 on charges of sexual misconduct, up from 458 in 2014.
“Even though (sexual abuse in the classroom is) in every state of the country, there is no excuse for it,” Seryak said.
A third Destrehan High School teacher was arrested in January on charges that she had sex with a female student. That student told police that her sexual relationship with high school geography teacher Kimberly Naquin spanned from September 2014 until August 2015. The alleged inappropriate behavior occurred at Naquin’s home, in a classroom at the school and at a residence in Destrehan, according to the student.