Last summer, months before Joseph "Kade" Abbott was arrested on a felony charge of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl, the girl's family filed a lawsuit saying the First Apostolic Church of Maryville and the Apostolic Christian Academy should have known about the abuse.
The suit, filed in Blount County Circuit Court in August, says Abbott sexually assaulted the teenager multiple times last year, causing mental trauma for the girl and extreme guilt and anguish for the parents. Church leaders knew or should have known Abbott was a danger, it says.
In 2018, the Apostolic Christian Academy and a connected day care announced they had achieved Partner in Prevention status, a designation given by the nonprofit Darkness to Light to organizations that take extra steps to protect the children they serve by training staff to understand child sexual abuse, identify unsafe situations and react responsibly in the best interest of children.
Abbott was arrested in North Carolina on a charge of sexual battery by an authority figure and taken to the Blount County jail Jan. 9. He was released on a $200,000 bond the following day, according to Blount County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Marian O'Briant.
Police began investigating Abbott in June after he was accused by the girl's parents of sex abuse. The case is under investigation, O'Briant said last week. O'Briant declined to give additional details because the investigation is ongoing and involves a juvenile.
Knox News is not naming the girl or her family because because she is a minor and says she's a victim of sexual abuse.
Abbott, 26, is not listed as a school employee, but appeared on Apostolic Christian Academy's staff list as a middle school teacher as recently as August, around the same time the lawsuit was filed, according to a search of internet archives by Knox News. He moved two months ago to a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, according to the arrest warrant.
The charge, sexual battery by an authority figure, is used against defendants who use their job or legal status to take advantage of their victim, or have parental or custodial authority.
Abbott's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 27.
Attorney Alyssa Minge represents both the school and the church. She referred Knox News to her previous statement: "We cannot comment on matters involving pending litigation. Our prayers are with everyone involved."
The family's attorney, T. Scott Jones, could not be reached for comment.
The family is suing for $4.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Tyler Whetstone is an investigative reporter focused on accountability journalism. Connect with Tyler by emailing him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @tyler_whetstone. Make our community, our society and our republic stronger by supporting robust local journalism. Subscribe online at knoxnews.com/subscribe.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Apostolic Christian Academy in Maryville sued in teacher sex abuse case
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