Bowling, Monroe school board face federal lawsuit

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A man who claims he was molested by former Smithville coach Dwight Bowling filed a federal lawsuit against him and the Monroe County School Board.
Jason Carithers of Lee County, now an adult, wants actual damages, punitive damages and other costs associated with the legal action, according to the lawsuit filed late last week in U.S. District Court.
Carithers’ attorney, Donald Medley of Hattiesburg, alleges his client was sexually harassed in violation to his right to equal protection. Carithers also seeks compensation under his constitutional right to due process – that he was entitled to personal security and “bodily integrity.” He also says the school district failed to properly supervise Bowling in “deliberate indifference” to his rights.
He claims Bowling molested him from 2004-2008 while he was a minor student at Smithville High School, where Bowling was a teacher and coach.
Last week, Bowling was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison on numerous state counts that he fondled and had oral sex with minor males in Monroe and Itawamba counties.
That sentence runs at the same time as a 25-year federal sentence on Bowling’s guilty pleas that he took minor males across state lines for sex and attempted to bribe a witness to lie about their longtime sexual relationship.
Carithers asks for a jury trial.
It wasn’t known whether other victims will do the same.
Bowling is in federal custody and could not be reached for comment. Neither could a representative for the school district.
But shortly after Bowling’s arrest Sept. 17, 2010, Superintendent Scott Cantrell answered Daily Journal questions about the situation, saying that it would be inappropriate for the district to make any statement “other than to express concern for the individuals and families involved.”
Cantrell also said that “to our knowledge there never were any complaints” about Bowling’s behavior.
However, an unsigned letter to the Daily Journal postmarked Sept. 29, 2010, allegedly from the mother of a Smithville student, claimed she complained about Bowling to the school’s principal in 1994.
She also claimed the official would not help her and told her to keep quiet because no one would believe her.
Carithers’ lawsuit states that Bowling repeatedly “coerced him” to have illegal sex with him, and as a result Carithers was “severely injured and mentally and emotionally traumatized.”
In a letter to the circuit court prior to Bowling’s sentence last week, Carithers admitted he was sexually abused by Bowling.
Saying he’s now a “normal guy” with a child, he told the court of the former coach, “He deserves what he gets.”
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com