FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A former Springdale assistant principal named as a defendant in a sexual assault lawsuit filed by a former student filed an answer to the complaint in the Western District of Arkansas federal court in Fayetteville.
Mark Oesterle submitted the filing through his attorney, Andrew Myers, of Taylor Law Partners, on December 7. In that filing, Oesterle denies multiple allegations and claims to be “without knowledge or information sufficient to admit or deny” others made by the plaintiff, Alissa Cawood. The response adds that “all allegations set forth in the complaint that have not been specifically admitted” are denied as well.
Additional affirmative defenses state that the plaintiff “failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted” and said that the claims should be dismissed, as well as alleging that “plaintiff’s claims fail for lack of causation.” It continues by stating that additional claims are barred due to “lack of personal jurisdiction” and that “injuries alleged resulted from pre-existing and/or unrelated physical or medical conditions and not from any act or omission by defendant.”
It also notes that Oesterle is not joint tortfeasors with any other party. Principal Joseph Rollins and the Springdale School District were also named as defendants in Cawood’s suit. Oesterle’s filing continues by claiming that more of Cawood’s claims are barred for the following:
- Doctrines of waiver
- Accord and satisfaction
- Failure to mitigate
- Statute of limitations and/or statute of repose
Oesterle also denied being guilty of any conduct warranting punitive damages. It added that the defendant reserved the right to “raise additional affirmative defenses that may be identified through more particular pleading or discovery in this case.”
He also requested costs and attorney’s fees.
The suit alleges that all actions took place when the plaintiff was a student at the School of Innovation or Har-Ber High School and it states that Oesterle engaged in “grooming behavior” toward Cawood, culminating in “a pattern of sexual harassment, molestations, sexual assaults, and violations of bodily integrity.”
The filing alleges that Oesterle first “took an interest” in her when she was 13 years old and in eighth grade. It says that he asked for her phone number and “began to message her privately via text and over social media.”
The suit states that the principal and the district were aware of this behavior and did nothing to stop it, nor did they provide any warning to Cawood’s grandparents, who were her legal guardians. The suit explains that Oesterle’s communications took on “a more sexual nature” in the summer between Cawood’s eighth and ninth grade school years.
The suit notes her attendance fell off, her mental health deteriorated, and she “suffered from persistent anxiety.” She was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a “direct result of Oesterle’s repeated sexual harassment and abuse.”
Cawood is seeking damages for multiple reasons, including emotional suffering, mental anguish, humiliation and loss of self-worth, medical expenses, loss of educational benefits and loss of employment opportunities. The initial filing requested a jury trial.
In 2021, Oesterle pleaded guilty to one charge after sexually assaulting two minor teen girls. He was sentenced to six years probation, fined $1,000 and ordered to register as a Level 3 Sex Offender.
On March 3, Springdale Police arrested him for knowingly going to a pair of Springdale public school campuses in February, which is a Class D Felony due to his Sex Offender status.
On November 18, separate defendants Joseph Rollins and the Springdale School District filed a motion for additional time to respond to Cawood’s suit. The filing noted that the plaintiff’s attorney had no objection or opposition to the granting of an extension.
The defendants asked for and were granted a new deadline of December 14 to “answer or otherwise plead” in the case.