Former Knighstville educator awarded $1M in lawsuit against DD2 - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Former Knighstville educator awarded $1M in lawsuit against DD2

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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) -- A former Dorchester District 2 school administrator has won a lawsuit against the school district for abuse of process.

The attorneys for Mary Rita Watson announced a $1,000,000 verdict for their client Wednesday.

In 2009, then assistant principal Mary Rita Watson was charged, along with three other employees at Knightsville Elementary School, for failing to report child abuse.

According to her attorney, Gregg Meyers, Watson had gotten a report from a teacher's aide claiming another aide had abused a special needs child. Meyers said Wilson reported the incident to the school's principal immediately and the following internal investigation determined that no further action was needed.

According to a release from Meyers, the same aide who initially reported the abuse expanded her story to her therapist and alleged more misconduct with even more students. The therapist went to the Department of Social Services and to the school district. Meyers said Wilson was not privy to the additional allegations.

When allegations surfaced involving the child of a Family Court Judge, however, Meyers said  DD2 officials assumed Wilson was informed and failed to report. She was demoted from Assistant Principal to classroom teacher.

"Watson was told by school officials she was 'messing with the wrong parents' and the parents 'wouldn’t be happy until they were all removed,' the release claims. "The school district issued a press release telling the public they had removed the administrators and a criminal investigation would take place by the Sheriff’s Department and Department of Social Services."

Watson and other educators were arrested and charged with failing to report child abuse. Watson's charges were dropped a year later and she filed the civil suit against the district.

A jury awarded Wilson a $1 million verdict on Wednesday, even though the maximum for damages in South Carolina is $300,000.

“We appreciate the jury was very clear on telling the district they cannot treat their employees that way,” said Meyers.

Meyers claims Watson has not been able to find a job since the allegations surfaced and was only 10 years away from retirement.

“I am relieved and appreciate that someone finally listened to my story,” said Watson.

ABC News 4 has reached out to DD2 officials for a statement. We will update this story when they respond.

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