Appeals court: Liability lawsuit against district for South St. Paul teacher’s alleged sex abuse can go forward

A negligence and liability lawsuit against South St. Paul Public Schools will go forward after Minnesota’s Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision Monday.

The opinion from the appellate court comes after “Jane Doe” sued the district in 2020 over alleged sexual abuse by former elementary school teacher Aric Babbitt.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS previously reported on Babbitt, who was accused of sexually abusing multiple students in 2016. He and his husband were found dead in a murder-suicide in Washington that year.

Doe’s lawsuit claims that Babbitt had groomed her for multiple years and continued to sexually assault her, even when she wasn’t a student in the district any longer.

According to the lawsuit, during that same time period Doe volunteered in Babbitt’s classroom and was told it was approved by the principal. Because of that, the lawsuit claims the district was liable for Babbitt’s conduct and demonstrated negligent supervision and retention of him.

A district court judge sided with the district and dismissed the lawsuit back in October but Monday’s filing from the Court of Appeals allows Doe’s lawsuit to proceed.

The district had argued that Doe wasn’t part of a formal volunteer program so the district legally didn’t owe any duty of care.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has reached out to the district for comment on the appellate court’s ruling and will update this story if a statement is received.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, several resources are available to offer help. For immediate help, contact:

More than 12 million people just in the U.S. are affected by domestic violence every year, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The organizations listed above can help connect victims to resources like safe shelter, advocacy, legal help and support groups.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline also offers tips for identifying abuse and supporting victims of abuse. CLICK HERE to see those.

Other organizations that can help include:

Minnesota also has a list of many other resources for victims of crimes that can be found HERE.