In 2008, someone e-mailed the principal at Dr. Michael M. Krop High School with a serious allegation: a creative writing teacher was having sex with current and former students.
It’s unclear if the school district investigated this claim, but it’s clear what happened next: Jason Edward Meyers was allowed to move to Miami Palmetto Senior High School in 2011, where a lawsuit filed in federal court against the Miami-Dade School Board claims he continued to engage in inappropriate relationships with underage female students.
In total, the suit says, Meyers pursued sexually charged relationships with eight of his current or former students at the two schools during his 14 years as a Miami-Dade teacher. He groomed his creative writing students, encouraged them to write sexually explicit content and singled them out to such a public degree, the suit says, that they were known as “Jason’s Girls.”
Among the allegations in the lawsuit, filed this week on behalf of one student who said she was victimized: Meyers told one student to study sexually explicit novels like “Lolita” and emphasized passages about an older man seducing a young girl. The suit describes him giving another student provocative clothes to wear to his class, demanding she break up with her boyfriend and telling her to title a poem she had written, “Come Inside Me.”
In some cases, Meyers’ behavior may have gone beyond sexual harassment. Meyers forcibly kissed and groped the plaintiff in the lawsuit, the suit says, and had sex with another underage student inside his classroom. Meyers was arrested in February 2016 on charges of sexual battery of a minor involving one of the Palmetto students.
Meyers was fired after the arrest, said district spokesman John Schuster. The criminal case is ongoing.
The suit also raised another troubling allegation: That the Miami-Dade school district did little or nothing to protect students from a teacher described in the court documents as a serial predator.
“As alleged, the School Board knew that Mr. Meyers posed a serious risk of sexual abuse against our community’s children. Yet it did virtually nothing to stop him,’’ said Miami attorney Mark Schweikert, who filed the suit along with partner Ronald Weil. “Instead, the School Board merely relocated the risk posed by his predatory behavior from one school to another.”
The district “failed to promptly and adequately report, investigate, redress and otherwise respond to its notice that Meyers posed a serious danger of sexual abuse and exploitation to female students,” allowing Meyers to transfer to a new school where “he continued to have unfettered access to female students,” according to the suit. The suit also accuses the School Board of violating Title IX, a federal law that protects against gender-based discrimination.
If a teacher is suspected of an inappropriate relationship with a student, the district’s procedure is usually to remove the teacher from contact with students while the investigation is ongoing, Schuster said.
Schuster said he could not comment on the suit because the board’s attorney had not yet reviewed the allegations. He also would not comment on whether the district had previously investigated complaints about Meyers.
Meyers’ defense attorney, Marcos Beaton Jr., also declined to comment.
Concern about Meyers’ behavior dates back to early in his teaching career, according to the suit.
In addition to the 2008 e-mail sent to the then principal of Krop High, a schools police officer witnessed Meyers leaning over another alleged victim in a “very personal” and “intimate” fashion in the school hallway during the 2004-2005 school year, the suit says.
Once Meyers was transferred to Palmetto High, his behavior continued to raise suspicions. The suit states that throughout Meyers’ tenure at the school, school district employees “received reports of suspected continued predation and inappropriate conduct with students.” Palmetto High employees noticed that Meyers spent a considerable amount of time alone in his classroom with a group of female students and began referring to them as “Jason’s girls,” the suit says. Meyers sometimes locked his classroom door when he was alone with female students and covered the window on his classroom door with a poster.
There was also a fight between Meyers and his wife, also a Palmetto High teacher, that allegedly happened on school grounds during the 2015-2016 school year. Meyers’ wife confronted Meyers about his relationship with at least one female student, the suit says.
Palmetto High School has a history of high-profile sex scandals going back decades.
A former Palmetto High School student on an exchange program from Spain is behind bars after police said she married her host father, convinced her younger sister to come live with the couple and helped sexually abuse the then 14-year-old. Dale Leary, the host father, and his former wife Claudia, attempted suicide days after he was released from jail. He succeeded; she didn’t.
In 2015, Christopher Scottlevin Best, a former music teacher, was arrested on charges (that were later dropped) of having a sexual relationship with his 17-year-old student. She told police they had sex at least 10 times — in the music classroom or a local hotel — during their nine month “boyfriend-girlfriend” relationship.
The charges against Best, 28, were dropped when the girl and her family refused to cooperate with investigators.
The school that serves the affluent Pinecrest community also is home to one of South Florida's most infamous school sex cases. Another music teacher, George Crear III, was acquitted after four girls accused him of having sex with them in his car and promising to leave his wife for each of them.
Before the high-profile 1997 trial, one of the 16-year-old girls killed herself after she was spurned by Crear. He was found guilty of similar crimes later the same year at his previous school in Michigan.
BY KYRA GURNEY AND ALEX HARRIS