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A former Philly teacher sexually assaulted a student, and the district knew he was a predator, lawsuit says

A longtime teacher at Parkway Center City High School assaulted a student over four years at the school, despite warnings that the teacher had abused another student, a recently filed civil suit says.

The outside of Parkway Center City Middle College High School, on N. 13th Street. A former teacher is accused of sexually assaulting a student between 2006 and 2010, when the school was known as Parkway Center City HS.
The outside of Parkway Center City Middle College High School, on N. 13th Street. A former teacher is accused of sexually assaulting a student between 2006 and 2010, when the school was known as Parkway Center City HS.Read moreTYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer

A former Parkway Center City High School teacher sexually assaulted one of his students for four years — and the Philadelphia School District allowed it to happen, ignoring repeated evidence of abuse, according to a recently filed lawsuit.

Larry Perry, a veteran, popular English and history teacher at the Philadelphia magnet school on North 13th Street, was already convicted of sexual assault and corruption of a minor in this case and sentenced in March up to eight years in prison. He is pursuing an appeal.

The civil suit by the plaintiff identified as Jane Doe against the district, school board, and former School Reform Commission seeks financial damages in excess of $50,000 for the victim’s “severe and permanent injuries.”

Monica Lewis, district spokesperson, said the school system could not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit notes the abuse began in 2006, when the student was a freshman at Parkway Center City, now known as Parkway Center City Middle College High School. Perry was her English teacher, and also spent time with her after school; her brother was involved in a club for which Perry was faculty adviser, and she would wait in Perry’s classroom for her brother to take her home.

Perry began telling “inappropriate jokes” to the victim and “he also started touching and caressing Plaintiff’s face and buttocks,” according to the lawsuit. In her sophomore year, Perry began eating lunch alone with the victim, and driving her home, as well as kissing and touching her in his classroom.

He provided the student with a prepaid phone, sent her “intimate and flirtatious” text messages, and coerced her to send nude photos of herself to him, the lawsuit says. He abused her at school and first began having sex with her the summer between her sophomore and junior year and then throughout the rest of her time in high school.

Teachers who were friends with Perry knew about his relationship with the victim, the suit says, but did nothing despite being mandated reporters. A noontime aide once saw Perry driving the victim on I-95. A school police officer began noticing Perry spending significant amounts of time with the victim and brought his concerns to the school principal, who responded by bringing the police officer to a meeting with her and Perry.

The principal told the school police officer that Perry “had been investigated previously regarding similar allegations, and that nothing happened to him.” The principal took no further action, the suit says.

The school had been warned about Perry before — in 1998, Perry’s then-girlfriend discovered him naked with another underage student at their home. She kicked him out of the apartment and reported the inappropriate contact to Parkway Center City officials, handing over letters and cards Perry wrote to the girl. Nothing was done with those allegations, the suit says.

Perry’s abuse of the plaintiff was so well known by other students that he “addressed the comments with students in his class and said that if the talk and rumors about him and Jane Doe do not stop, he will fail the students and they will not graduate,” according to the suit.

Perry convinced the victim to attend college near his home in Willow Grove, but she eventually broke up with him.

After the woman reported the assaults to Abington police in 2019, Philadelphia school officials barred Perry from district property.

The woman, now in her late 20s, still suffers from severe depression and has attempted suicide in the past, the suit says: Her “entire life has been upended and permanently damaged.”

“We look forward to seeking justice on behalf of our client,” Thomas Clemens and Gregory Spizer, the plaintiff’s lawyers, said in a statement.