The Jesuit college professor files a harassment lawsuit alleging the school protected its top disciplinarian.
Delmy Banegas has filed a lawsuit in which Lawrence Abshire, a disciplinaryist at Jesuit High School known as “Top,” made “grossly inappropriate and sexualized comments” to the point where the Spanish teacher felt none to have any choice but to leave their position. Abshire was in school for nearly three decades before a complaint was filed.
In the lawsuit, Banegas alleges that Abshire subjected her to “severe and daily harassment” while she was employed at the Catholic preparatory school. When she reported what happened to the administrators, she was told that the school “has no formal policy on sexual harassment.” However, after filing, the school filed a statement defending its moves and stating that the investigation into the matter was “both immediate and thorough.”
Banegas attorney Jay Ellwanger insisted that his client “was forced to quit her job for fear of continued harassment, badger addiction and humiliation.” He added, “Whenever you are accused of having been sexually molested by a person in power… (institutions) you need to be much more careful when monitoring these types of activities. That didn’t happen here. “
Photo by Marilia Castelli on Unsplash
Abshire began his tenure at the Religious Preparatory School in 1991 after spending more than two decades in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he was promoted to Sergeant Major. On his résumé he also served as an instructor for the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps of the Marine Corps of the Jesuits and a year as director of the MCJROTC program at Franklinton High School. Banegas accepted her position as a Jesuit Spanish teacher in 2019.
The lawsuit states: “Abshire became interested in Banegas almost immediately after starting her Jesuit in the fall of 2019. He told her at the start of the school year, I bet when you are naked you like what you see.” Banegas claims Abshire also “fiddled with her buttocks and noticed that she wouldn’t be bored walking into his office alone”. He later told the Spanish teacher, “I bet you like those hot peppers, especially this Italian sausage,” which was cited in the lawsuit, “she interpreted them as euphemisms for a man’s penis.”
She said she would try to ignore him and made it clear “that she did not enjoy his constant harassment”. She claimed that Abshire once said “there is no nuisance to be enjoyed” and that she later began to “suffer from panic attacks and severe psychological and emotional distress”. Eventually, the symptoms were so severe that she felt she needed to report to the disciplinarian. When no action was taken, Banegas claims she had no choice but to resign.
Records show that Jesuits have general procedural guidelines for reporting complaints from staff, including reporting the problem to Human Resources first and then to the school principal. As required by law, Banegas filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prior to the lawsuit and was granted a right to sue.
Banegas’ lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the school for allegedly being exposed to, among other things, a “sexually hostile work environment and gender-based discrimination”. The former employee also strives for mandatory training for all employees on discrimination and sexual harassment.
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