Lawsuit Alleges BOEs' 'Blatant Indifference' To Volunteer's Sexual Abuse History

Author’s note – this article contains coverage of sexual material involving a minor. Please be advised before reading.

A civil case filed against the Greenbrier County Board of Education is seeking damages for criminally prosecuted sexual messages between a football volunteer and a student.

The case was filed by Robert and Stephanie Lilly, both individually and as the parents or guardians of a child, referred to in this article as “the student,” against both the Greenbrier County Board of Education and Fayette County Board of Education.

“This case is about the years of inexcusable actions—and inaction—of the boards and their blatant indifference to Michael Ramsey’s disturbing history of sexual abuse and misconduct, which was widely known in the school community, and was known by several employees and/or agents of the Boards prior to Michael Ramsey’s abuse and exploitation of [the student],” reads the complaint. “The actions—and inaction—of the boards resulted in severe, lifelong mental and emotional harm to [the student], who attended Western Greenbrier Middle School and to whom the Boards and their agents serve in loco parentis.”

The complaint begins with Ramsey’s employment at Meadow Bridge High School in Fayette County during the 2017 and 2018 calendar years. The complaint states Ramsey allegedly “sent sexually explicit text messages to at least one minor student.”

“A teacher at Meadow Bridge reported Mr. Ramsey’s sexually abusive conduct to the administration at Meadow Bridge, … [and] sexually abusive conduct was never reported to the Department of Health and Human Resources, in violation of West Virginia Code, … or to any law enforcement agency, and Michael Ramsey was never reprimanded or terminated from his position as the school’s baseball coach. … Instead, teachers, employees, and/or agents of the Fayette County Board of Education allowed him to continue to sexually exploit minor children with no consequences and quietly resign from his coaching position.”

Ramsey then became a volunteer for Western Greenbrier Middle School’s football team, with the complaint alleging “teachers, employees, and/or agents of Western Greenbrier Middle School and, specifically, members of the school’s football coaching staff, knew that Mr. Ramsey had a history of sexually abusive conduct toward minor boys because they knew Mr. Ramsey sexually assaulted a minor child prior to his involvement with the football team.”

During the 2019 to 2020 calendar year, the student joined the football program.

“Ramsey was deeply involved in assisting the football team,” reads the complaint. “He attended practices, assisted with running drills, helped setup and put away equipment, and coached on the sidelines during games. … Ramsey’s access to the team frequently brought him into physical contact with minor male students, including [the student]. Ramsey was allowed to be present while the team showered and dressed, and was allowed to rub the backs, necks, and shoulders of players on the sidelines and in the locker room. At some point during the 2019 football season, Michael Ramsey began using Snapchat to communicate with [the student] and other middle school football players.”

In October 2020, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia issued a press release, stating Ramsey had “pled guilty and admitted that he was communicating via Snapchat with a person he believed to be a 14-year-old minor that he had previously met in person. During these conversations, Ramsey offered to pay the 14-year-old $200 to engage in two sexual acts. On April 3, 2020, Ramsey traveled to a meeting location in Greenbrier County to meet the minor to engage in the commercial sex acts, at which time he was placed under arrest.”

“The undercover agent, posing as [the student], told Ramsey that his cellphone was broken,” the civil complaint reads. “Ramsey responded by offering the undercover agent (who he believed to be the 14-year-old [student]) $200 for a new cellphone in exchange for sexual favors. Specifically, said Ramsey, ‘I get your bod twice.’ … On April 3, 2020, Ramsey arrived at a secluded and rural church in Smoot, West Virginia, where he thought he would be meeting [the student]. … On April 15, 2020, members of the FBI West Virginia Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force arrested Ramsey on federal sex trafficking charges.”

“Following Ramsey’s arrest, a review of Ramsey’s Snapchat records revealed that he had also been engaging in sexually explicit conversations with other Western Greenbrier Middle School football players,” the civil complaint continues.

The federal press release states “Ramsey, 47, of Rainelle, was sentenced to 135 months in prison for attempted sex trafficking of a minor. Upon release from prison, Ramsey will serve a term of 25 years of supervised release and be required to register as a sex offender.”

The Lillys seek judgment against both boards for “compensatory damages, … attorney fees, costs and expenses, in an amount sufficient to fairly compensate Robert and Stephanie Lilly and their son for his injuries and damages, permanent psychological injuries, past and future psychological bills, … expenses the Lilly’s incurred in transporting [the student] to medical appointments, therapy, and the like, punitive damages, other general and special damages afforded under West Virginia law.”

The charges include:
– Count I, negligence, against both parties
– Count II, negligent infliction of emotional distress, against the Greenbrier County Board of Education.
– Count III, negligence per se, against both parties.
– Count IV, negligent supervision, against both parties.
– Count V, negligent hiring/retention, against both parties.

As of press time, no responses have been filed in the Greenbrier County Circuit Court from either party since the complaint was filed on February 3.

The federal press release also notes “the West Virginia State Police, the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s West Virginia Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force conducted the investigation. … This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative of the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. … Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.”

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