A Dallas mother is suing the prestigious Hockaday School and a former teacher. The lawsuit claims the prep school dismissed “red flags” raised about the now-fired teacher who is facing child pornography charges.
The lawsuit filed by Tracy Walder claims the school created a “toxic” culture and dismissed concerns she raised about Jason Baldwin while he was her daughter’s teacher during the 2018-2019 school year. Baldwin was terminated from Hockaday in August of this year after he was arrested on child pornography charges.
According to the lawsuit, in 2018 Baldwin broke her 3-year-old daughter’s arm while on the playground, then “retaliated against and abused [the child] for telling the truth about how her injuries were caused over the course of a year as her teacher.”
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The lawsuit states the prestigious prep school was alerted to “red flags” that should have prompted investigations into Baldwin, but “instead, Hockaday repeatedly sided with Baldwin, swept his actions under the rug, and retaliated against [the child’s] mother, another teacher at Hockaday.”
According to the lawsuit, those concerns included Baldwin's initial misstatements about how the 3-year-old was injured, and changes in the child's behavior from bright and happy to "sad, angry, nervous and closed-off" while enrolled in his class. At one point, the lawsuit states, Walder’s daughter told her “Mr. Jason locked her in the restroom by herself with the lights off for crying too much.”
Walder said she brought these issues to the attention of administrators at The Hockaday School, but her claims were dismissed and she was ultimately treated with "hostility" by administrators, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit comes nearly 4-months after the FBI raided Baldwin’s apartment and arrested him on child pornography charges. In a federal indictment, the FBI said Baldwin used a PayPal account linked to the school campus to buy videos of underage boys and while searching his apartment he confessed to investigators to owning “hundreds” of images and videos of child pornography.
Baldwin pleaded not guilty to the charges and is out on bail while he awaits trial.
Within days of learning of his arrest, Hockaday fired Baldwin.
At the time the child pornography charges were filed, Walder had already pulled her daughter out of Hockaday and resigned from her position as a teacher in Hockaday’s Upper School.
“After a while when someone keeps telling you ‘you’re crazy, you’re crazy, this doesn’t matter’ – you start to believe that about yourself,” said Walder. “But I think when I heard about those charges it was this big epiphany for me that I had failed my daughter and I was right. Speaking up was the right thing to do.”
In a response to the lawsuit, Hockaday released the following statement to NBC5:
“Hockaday takes very seriously any allegation of harm to a child, but Tracy Walder’s lawsuit relies on misstatements and accusations that have already been found unsubstantiated, by government agencies and by Hockaday.
The lawsuit also mentions unrelated criminal charges pending against Jason Baldwin. The undisputed information uncovered by law enforcement indicates that none of Baldwin’s alleged crimes involved any current or former Hockaday student, or any Hockaday equipment or facilities.
The safety of our children remains Hockaday’s most fundamental duty and value. Hockaday has undertaken a comprehensive audit, conducted by external experts, of all relevant policies and practices, from hiring protocols to the security of its facilities. Hockaday will continue to take every step at its disposal to protect the safety and wellbeing of its students.”
Walder’s attorney, Grant Gerleman with Scott H. Palmer, PC, said the lawsuit is about seeking justice for Walder and her daughter, but also for those who will report suspected child abuse in the future.
“Whether it’s a school, whether it’s a corporation, any entity out there, you are not to retaliate against reports of child abuse,” Gerleman said.