The mother of a girl allegedly molested last fall by an art teacher at a Lodi Unified School District charter school is suing the alleged assailant, the school and another teacher allegedly involved in the abuse.
The plaintiff, whose 11-year-old daughter was an art student of Michael Hartsock at Aspire Schools, alleges in court documents prepared by attorney Trenton Diehl that her daughter was "systematically and methodically groomed for sexual molestation" by the educator.
The acts allegedly happened from August 2010 to December 2010 at Aspire Benjamin Holt College Preparatory Academy on East Morada Lane in Stockton. Aspire was granted charter status by Lodi Unified School District in January 1999.
It is part of a nonprofit charter school program featuring more than 30 campuses across the state. The system has also received funding from Oprah Winfrey and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Hartsock was previously arrested and faces six counts related to grooming a minor for sexual molestation, court documents show. Legal definitions of grooming involve befriending a victim to lower inhibitions for sexual activity.
He is out on bail and is due in court Nov. 23.
The complaint is also against Michael Merritt, a physical education teacher at the charter school.
Merritt allegedly arranged with Hartsock to let the girl remain alone with the art teacher during the victim's PE period, according to the complaint.
Although the victim had "rare or nonexistent" attendance in Merritt's class, she supposedly received an A+, the court document reads.
The complaint further alleges that Merritt wrote on the victim's report card that she was a "delight to have in class."
Text messages with phrases such as "I love you" were sent by Hartsock to the victim's personal cellphone, according to the document. It also alleges that Hartsock took the girl off campus on multiple occasions without parental or school permission.
No specifics were given in the complaint as to where he took the girl or how he was able to get her off campus.
According to the complaint, the victim did not consent to the abuse, which was described as Hartsock putting his hands on and between the girl's legs multiple times.
The complaint implicates the school for failing to intervene and for creating a work environment in which an older male was left alone with a young child.
Representatives for Aspire could not be reached for comment late Friday afternoon.
The family is seeking unspecified damages for mental and emotional distress, as well as compensation for medical costs and ongoing therapy.
Diehl is on vacation and was unable to comment on the case Friday afternoon.