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A classroom volunteer is suing the Clark County School District for failing to protect her from an elementary school teacher. The lawsuit alleges the teacher has an extensive history of sexually harassing, stalking, and threatening women, and that the district knew about it and did nothing to stop it.
"I'm really nervous about having to be in the same room with him," said Andreana Leonard.
With fear as her constant companion, Leonard takes another step to guard her safety. A motion to extend her existing order of protection against the man she first met at her son's school, Bilbray Elementary.
"I had always volunteered in the classrooms -- I've always been there. But I had never actually been asked to volunteer in a classroom where my children weren't," she said.
But in 2007, fourth grade teacher Ken McFate approached Leonard for help, and it wasn't long before a developing classroom friendship became something more. "It was romantic in nature and he found me at a vulnerable time and it was hard for me not to come to rely on him," she said.
But the attention Leonard felt soon bordered on obsession. When she sought to end the relationship, she claims McFate threatened to expose their affair. "I finally told him ‘I won't be threatened. I need you to leave me alone. I need you to stay away from me, from my children,' and he said basically he was going to ruin me," she said.
Leonard says her phone rang 24 hours a day and when she refused to answer, she claims McFate appeared at her home, her school, and her work. "I was afraid for my life. I was afraid of my children disappearing," she said.
Overwhelmed, Leonard sought comfort in a friend. "I started to tell her, ‘I have a problem. There's a teacher from my son's school who won't leave me alone.' And she asked me, ‘Is his name Ken McFate?'" she said.
"I got a chill up my spine. It's the same guy. He's continued doing it. And when they told me they'd take care of it, it wasn't true," said former teacher Trisha Smith.
In 2003, Smith shared a portable with McFate at Indian Springs Elementary School. She considered her co-worker a friend, but Smith says unwanted attention outside of the classroom prompted her to initiate a talk. "I said, ‘Listen, I've gotten kind of some feelings. Let's make sure we understand each other. I'm married. I'm not looking for a boyfriend. So we're co-workers, right? We're good?'" she said.
But according to Smith, the phone calls, the emails, and the harassment didn't stop. Like Leonard, Smith says she saw McFate around every corner. Unable to stop him on her own, she turned to her principal for help. Smith says the administrator threw up her hands, saying "How many women is this guy going to run out of here?"
"She knew that guy was a problem. She knew what he did to other women and what did she do? She assigns him to my classroom knowing that he would have to cooperate with me in terms of using that space together. I was set up to be his next victim," said Smith.
Smith says the Clark County School District transferred McFate immediately, in the middle of the school year, to Bilbray where ultimately he would meet Leonard. "She and I decided we were going to find out, and if he had stalked both us, maybe he had done it before," said Leonard.
The two friends searched court records and found a pattern emerge in the paperwork. In less than 10 years, the court had issued at least five restraining orders against McFate. Two of them involved families with children at Indian Springs Elementary and another was a teacher's aide at Bilbray.
"Then we started reading them and realizing that everything he did to me, he did over and over and over," said Leonard.
Leonard included McFate's history in her application for a protective order following two hearings before Judge Abbi Silver as to whether the order should extend to Bilbray Elementary School. In 2008, Silver ruled in Leonard's favor.
"It's the same activity that goes on over and over and over again within these schools, with different individuals. There's no way that all these people are making it up," said Judge Silver.
The court removed McFate from his classroom when the school district would not. "I believe that they have covered up for him and that they'd made it ok for him to continue his behavior. And considering who most of the victims were, I believe he used his position over and over and over," said Leonard.
McFate retired after 27 years with the district last summer. Forced to, he says, because of Leonard's restraining order. "She's upset your honor because her husband and I had a conversation. She got found out in this affair," he said in court.
The paper shield expired last month and absent any new allegations, Judge Eric Goodman declined to renew it. So Leonard left the courtroom with her constant companion. "I think when women are afraid, they're deathly afraid -- afraid enough to file a restraining order -- afraid enough to go to the police. I think that is violence," she said.
Judge Goodman did issue a court order for McFate to stay away from Leonard and her family. It does not provide for his immediate arrest if he violates.
McFate talked briefly about this story. He says all of his alleged victims used the legal system to hurt him, but not the other way around. He says he has evidence to support his version of the story, but would not share the evidence.
It is CCSD policy not to discuss on-going litigation. Public records requests yielded McFate's retirement information. However, the district will not confirm whether he is substitute teaching. His teacher's license is still active.