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More plaintiffs join lawsuit involving ex-Northside coach

Three more former Northside High School students are claiming they were sexually assaulted by a soccer coach, joining a lawsuit that portrays him as preying on young girls while school officials did nothing.

In an amended lawsuit filed Thursday, the three unnamed plaintiffs accused Lorstan Allen, who is no longer employed by Roanoke County schools, of grooming them as freshmen for sexual assaults that he carried out in their later years at the school.

Referred to as Jane Doe 3, 4 and 5, they made allegations similar to those of two other former students who sued Allen, the county school board and six Northside administrators in March.

Damages sought by the lawsuit now total $75 million.

“We have great respect for all our clients’ courage in pursuing this matter and look forward to moving ahead with the case,” read a statement from the Roanoke law firm of John Fishwick, which is representing the former students.

A spokesman for the school district declined to comment Thursday, citing a general policy of not talking about pending litigation.

The lawsuit alleges that Allen had a history — well known to his supervisors — of spending time and flirting with female students, often using his position as the school’s IT specialist to call them into his office for closed-door meetings from between 2015 to the end of the 2021 school year.

Allen no longer coaches the boy’s soccer team at Northside and has not been an employee of Roanoke County Public Schools since Nov. 15. A list of personnel changes approved by the school board in December states that he was terminated from his technology support position.

School administrators, teachers and other staff were aware that Allen “developed inappropriate relationships with female students enrolled at Northside ... and spent inordinate time with them at school and beyond school grounds,” according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.

The students suffered anxiety, emotional distress, impaired educational opportunities and other damages from Allen’s conduct and the school system’s failure to prevent it, the lawsuit claims.

Jane Doe 1 met Allen her freshman year when she picked up her laptop computer at a school event. At his suggestion, the lawsuit alleges, she stored her sports bag in Allen’s office and began to stop by for snacks and small talk.

Allen gave her his phone number and social media information and encouraged the student to stop by his office more often, meeting for breakfast and lunch.

During the encounters, Allen kept door to his office closed to prevent passersby from seeing inside, where he confided details of his personal life with Jane Doe 1 and encouraged her to do the same, according to the lawsuit.

As their discussions became more intimate, Allen would sometimes use his authority as IT specialist to disconnect the student’s computer and summon her to his office. “Defendant Allen had worked for two years to groom Jane Doe 1 and gain her trust; he had effectively desensitized her to his sexual abuse by her junior year in high school,” the lawsuit claims.

The student contends that Allen became more aggressive and began to hug her and grab her breasts and buttocks. While the student resisted, she did not know how to stop the actions of a “popular teacher and trusted adult at Northside,” the lawsuit states.

Under Allen’s helm, Northside’s soccer team had its best season in 2019, ending with a 21-2-1 overall record and a berth in the state final for the first time in school history.

Jane Doe 2, who was enrolled at Northside from August 2017 through May 2021, made similar allegations against Allen. The lawsuit states that her father complained to school officials in 2020, to no avail.

While investigating an unrelated incident in 2017, Northside’s police resource officer noticed surveillance video that showed Jane Doe 1 in Allen’s office for more than two hours with the door closed.

An assistant principal met with Allen, according to the lawsuit, but the only action taken was to install a swinging door to his office to mark a “line” that students should not cross.

But the policy was never enforced, the lawsuit contends, and Allen continued to keep his door closed when meeting with students. In the latest version of the lawsuit filed this week, three more women who attended Northside through May 2019 added their accounts of what happened to them.

One of the plaintiffs asserted that Allen told her that he spent days without sleeping to repair her damaged laptop computer, and that as a result she owed him “big time.” Allen began to ask about her sexual activities, the lawsuit alleges, and eventually his conduct escalated to inappropriate touching.

Another former student claimed that Allen remotely accessed the camera on her computer, enabling him to watch her as she did her school work. “Eventually, Jane Doe 4 covered up the webcam with tape to prevent such peeping,” the 48-page lawsuit states.

Among the legal claims are violations of Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sexual abuse of students, failure to train and supervisory liability counts against school officials, civil assault and battery claims against Allen and an allegation of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“There were unmistakable signs that something was amiss for years,” the lawsuit states. “Yet for years, nothing was done to stop Defendant Allen and prevent the grooming, sexual harassment and sexual abuse of female students, including Jane Does 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.”

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