Lawsuit alleges Principia staffer assaulted underage student

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(ST. LOUIS, AP) — A Christian Scientist school turned a blind eye while an employee repeatedly sexually assaulted a 16-year-old student, according to a lawsuit filed by the student’s parents.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1GjXFZc ) reports the million-dollar civil lawsuit filed Oct. 16 maintains that Principia only issued verbal warnings after learning that telecommunications department employee Zachary Retzlaff was carrying on a sexual relationship with the teenager.
The lawsuit, filed by the girl’s parents, claims Retzlaff sexually assaulted their daughter more than 40 times on and off campus between July 2014 and May 2015, and accuses the school of interfering with the civil and criminal cases. It claims the school breached its duty to provide a safe student environment as well as negligent hiring, retention and supervision of an employee and negligent supervision of a child.
The lawsuit says that Retzlaff met the teen through the school and spent time with her off campus at the home of his aunt, who is the school’s director of admissions. The suit says Retzlaff has other family connections at Principia. His uncle is a former trustee, and two other relatives work there, it says.
The girl’s parents said she has run away and they believe she’s living with Retzlaff and wants to marry him, KTVI reported.
With the help of the lawyer son of Principia’s in-house legal counsel, the teen has filed for an order of protection against her parents and has filled out “an affidavit replete with factual omissions for their (Principia’s) benefit,” the lawsuit claims. That lawyer, Warren Popp, and his mother, Sharon Popp, did not return messages seeking comment.
Retzlaff’s attorney and school representatives did not immediately respond to interview requests Wednesday.
County prosecutors charged Retzlaff with statutory rape in June. Retzlaff pleaded not guilty and was released on $25,000 cash bail. The criminal charges did not mention the school.
Court documents show that prosecutors want Retzlaff to be returned to jail because they believe he violated an order prohibiting contact with the girl and that she may be living at his house.
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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com