FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — After the defendants in a sexual assault lawsuit asked for the complaint to be dismissed, the plaintiff in the case has received an extension to respond.
Former Springdale student Alissa Cawood filed a lawsuit in the Western District of Arkansas Federal Court in Fayetteville on November 1, 2022, stating that it arises from “sexual harassment, sexual assault, and the deprivation of bodily integrity suffered by a young student at the hands of the Defendants,” namely the school district, former principal Joseph Rollins and former vice principal Mark Oesterle. On December 14, 2022, the school district and Rollins submitted a motion asking the court to dismiss the suit.
The court had set a deadline of December 29, 2022 for Cawood to respond to the motion to dismiss. This extension from Judge Timothy L. Brooks resets that deadline to January 12. The defendants had no objection to the extension.
Cawood’s 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 her, culminating in “a pattern of sexual harassment, molestations, sexual assaults, and violations of bodily integrity.”
His behavior toward Cawood allegedly escalated to unwanted sexual contact that became more aggressive, with the lawsuit explaining that he touched her over a dozen times on the SOI campus. 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, and says that the principal and the district were aware of this but continued to fail to act.
“None of plaintiff’s claims withstand scrutiny so as to survive a motion to dismiss by
these separate defendants,” the defendants’ motion to dismiss stated. “And therefore the entire case against Springdale School District and Joseph Rollins should be dismissed.”
The filing also said that Rollins “is entitled to qualified immunity and should be dismissed inasmuch as no liability has been demonstrated under the law.”
Oesterle retained his own counsel and is not part of the motion to dismiss, but he filed a reply to the suit on December 7, denying the allegations. 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, 2022, 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.
The suit notes that Cawood’s 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 seeks 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 filing requests a jury trial.