The parents of a 6th grade Goodyear boy have filed a notice of claim against the Liberty Elementary School District, claiming staff at their son's school failed to protect him from being sexually abused by his teacher.
That teacher, Brittany Zamora, was arrested in March and faces criminal charges including sexual exploitation of a minor and molestation.
According to the notice of claim, a top school administrator in Goodyear failed to act quickly and call police to investigate after concerned students first brought the allegations against Zamora to administrators.
Russ Richelsoph, an attorney with the Davis Miles McGuire Gardner law firm hired by the family of the 13-year-old victim, said the principal of the Las Brisas Academy in Goodyear was notified about an alleged inappropriate relationship between 6th grade teacher Brittany Zamora and the student by three of the boy's classmates in early February, almost one month before detectives got involved.
"[On] February 7, three 6th grade girls go to Principal Dickey with written notes, written statements saying 'we think there is something going on between our teacher Mrs. Zamora and our classmate,'" Richelsoph said.
The law firm had obtained handwritten notes taken by Principal Timothy Dickey while talking to the girls, but Richelsoph said instead of calling in the authorities to look into such a sensitive matter, the principal decided to do his own investigation.
"If you can even call it an investigation. The child's parents were not called, no other teachers were talked to. He just spoke to some students, Mrs. Zamora, and the boy, and basically dismissed it, nothing to see here, it's not true," Richelsoph said.
He added that the principal even had a chat with students on February 9, telling them not to spread rumors.
Almost a month later, Richelsoph said the child's parents uncovered the alleged affair involving their son and his teacher through a parental monitoring app they had installed on their cell phones. The app flagged certain words within a text and alerted the parents when those words appeared in a text message on their son's phone.
The child told his parents about the alleged relationship with his teacher. Court documents indicate the parents discovered disturbing and inappropriate texts and pictures between the two on their son's phone.
When the child's parents called Principal Dickey with that information, lawyers said it still took him more than two hours to contact authorities.
"The shocking thing about it is Las Brisas Academy has a school resource officer. There is a police officer at the school who is trained in investigating these kinds of things," Richelsoph said.
He added that the almost month-long delay in getting detectives involved in this investigation proved costly.
"The first really major sexual encounters were after Tim Dickey's investigation," Richelsoph said.
Court documents indicate the boy told his parents some of the alleged sex acts between him and the teacher took place inside a 6th-grade classroom. Others took place in her car and outside his grandparents home, where he would sneak out after midnight to see her.
The child's parents have told police that Zamora and her husband called them on the day they approached the school principal about the allegations and begged them to "settle this outside" of court. Richelsoph said the family wanted the school to be held accountable, and they wanted to make sure something like this never happened to another family.
"I want her to spend the rest of her life in prison. I want the school to be held accountable for what they've done and change the rules, so this doesn't happen to any other parent, any other child," the boy's father told ABC15 in March.
When reached for comment by ABC15 on the notice of claim being filed, administrators at the Liberty Elementary School District did not answer questions but did say Dickey is still the Principal at Las Brisas Academy.
The district now has 60 days to respond to the notice of claim. If there is no response a formal lawsuit will be filed against them in Superior court.