Boston Public Schools is facing a $5 million lawsuit from a former student who was shot in the head by a then-dean of English High School in 2015.
The former student, Luis Angel Rodriguez, claims the district's negligence led to “severe emotional distress, psychiatric injury, facial scarring, facial paralysis, hearing loss and other injuries.” English's then dean of academies, Shaun O. Harrison, employed him to “sell and distribute drugs to the student population at school” and then shot him off campus, according to the federal lawsuit filed in January.
The complaint also alleges the district knew about Harrison's misconduct at a school where he previously worked, Boston Green Academy in Brighton. He was transferred to Orchard Gardens Pilot School in Roxbury and promoted to an administrative position at English High in Jamaica Plain despite being dismissed from Green Academy for “poor performance,” according to the complaint.
Harrison, who was convicted last year, is currently serving 23 to 26 years at MCI-Cedar Junction and could not be reached for comment. He is also named as a defendant in the suit.
The complaint claims the district “hired, retained, promoted and failed to supervise its employee, Shaun O. Harrison, with knowledge that he was a severe risk to commit physical violence towards students and violate the BPS Drug Free Policy.” It also claims school officials “covered up [Harrison’s] criminal propensities by transferring him within the Boston Public School system.”
While Harrison was employed at Green Academy in 2012, a student reported him for throwing an object at her, and the complaint charges officials “failed to report the incident involving Harrison physically assaulting the female student to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.”
A spokesperson from Boston Public Schools declined to comment, saying the district cannot make statements about pending litigation. The district is not representing Harrison in the case.
At Green Academy, Harrison received another written warning during the same school year because he allegedly spoke about recreational drug use with two students. As a result of the complaints, the school dismissed him.
The suit says the district then placed Harrison as a paraprofessional at Orchard Gardens Pilot School in Roxbury. He was later promoted to dean of academies at English in 2015, selected out of a pool of 50 applicants, according to the complaint.
Harrison met with Rodriguez to provide mentorship and counseling at English. At one point, the dean told Rodriguez about being “messed up off some weed and lean the other night,” and asked the student if he’d like to make money by selling drugs at the school. Lean is slang for codeine, an opiate found in cough syrup, mixed with soda.
The two began selling drugs at the school, with Harrison providing recreational drugs and Rodriguez making the sales at English.
After two bags of drugs went unaccounted for in 2015, Harrison told Rodriguez, then a sophomore, he was “taking him to meet some girls, and to a party,” according to the complaint. As they were walking in Roxbury, Harrison shot Rodriguez at close range in the back of the head and left. According to the complaint, Rodriguez flagged down a passing vehicle. His lawyer did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin has set an April 18 deadline for the district to respond to the lawsuit.
Harrison’s job description during the period he courted Rodriguez to help him sell drugs included, the complaint states, “the responsibility to provide leadership,” “support students” and “identify appropriate supports for students with academic, behavioral, social and emotional needs.”
“He was my counselor. I went to him for everything,” Rodriguez said during Harrison's trial last year.
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