A lawsuit alleges Peoria Unified School District allowed one of its teachers to openly practice “sexually predatory behavior and grooming.”
A year ago, a Peoria Police detective interviewed a teacher named Ricky Ordway at the PUSD office in Glendale.
The detective arrested Ordway and charged him with molesting multiple fifth-grade students at Sun Valley Elementary School, near the Peoria and Glendale border.
Ordway, 44, faces two dozen charges of molestation and sex abuse, with most of the crimes allegedly taking place between Aug. 1, 2018, and May 7, 2019.
The criminal trial, originally scheduled for this month, was delayed until June 8.
Last month, attorneys representing one of the alleged victims and her family filed a lawsuit against Ordway, PUSD and the city of Peoria.
“As for monetary amount, we have not demanded anything as of yet,” said Nasser Abujbarah of Phillips Law Group, an attorney representing the alleged victim.
The lawsuit holds the district culpable.
“Ordway exhibited sexual predator behavior that was obvious to other employees and supervisors,” the suit alleges.
“Employees/agents of (PUSD) observed Ricky Ordway ‘flirt’ with students between the ages of 9 and 10, buy them expensive gifts, have them sit on his lap and exhibit other behavior that no rational educator could deem as anything other than highly, grossly, inappropriate behavior.”
The suit claims the district was “negligent in the supervision and retention of Ricky Ordway” and PUSD staff “failed to use reasonable care and were negligent in the supervision and training of its employees to identify and report sexually predatory behavior and grooming.”
In a November motion to dismiss criminal charges, Ordway’s attorney said “rumors” about Ordway were investigated by the school’s principal six months before his arrest.
“In an interview, the principal of Sun Valley Elementary School, Stephen Balliet, disclosed that there had previously been rumors about Mr. Ordway that had been investigated by the school in December of 2018. These allegations came about after a student was overheard by an aide telling another student that Mr. Ordway had sex with students,” wrote Josephine Hallain, Ordway’s attorney.
“Both students were interviewed by the principal and told the principal they had never been touched by Mr. Ordway nor had they seen anyone else be touched by Mr. Ordway. This investigation led to Mr. Balliet speaking to approximately 15 students. Each of those students claimed to have heard it from someone else but none of them were able to give an account of a true allegation.
“At this time Mr. Balliet addressed all four fifth grade classes and instructed them to come forward and speak to him if they had a real concern about Mr. Ordway. No one came forward to speak to Mr. Balliet or make any disclosures about Mr. Ordway.”
Michael A. Minicozzi, deputy county attorney, confirmed the principal did his own investigation in his response to Hallain’s dismissal plea.
“About five months before these allegations were investigated by the police, the principal of the elementary school conducted his own investigation brought on by some rumors that he had heard about the defendant acting inappropriately with some of the children,” Minicozzi wrote.
“Many of the incidents in this case occurred after the principal talked to some of the students,” Minicozzi added.
Four of Ordway’s alleged crimes took place in 2019.
The lawsuit alleges Ordway assaulted an 11-year-old girl May 6.
The Peoria Times asked the school district about the report that the principal had conducted his own investigation and if Ordway was permitted to return to unsupervised teaching afterward.
“This is a newly filed lawsuit so it is too early to comment on the allegations, but I can say from what we know so far is that as soon as the school had a report that something inappropriate may have taken place, law enforcement was notified,” said Michael Hensley, an attorney representing the district.
According to a Peoria Police Facebook post, “On May 7, 2019, at approximately 5:16 p.m. the principal of Sun Valley Elementary school notified the Peoria Police Department of a teacher allegedly inappropriately touching an 11-year-old female student.”
This began the police investigation. The district said Ordway was placed on administrative leave May 7.
Ordway denied all allegations against him during his May 14 interview with the Peoria Police.
He entered not guilty pleas on all 24 criminal charges against him.
Ordway again denied the charges in a preliminary answer to the civil suit.
In his April 8 answer to the civil suit, Ordway, who previously lived in north Peoria, lists his residence as a Phoenix address near east Glendale.
The city of Peoria asked to be dismissed from the suit March 23.
Connie Contes, the Maricopa County Superior Court judge assigned to the lawsuit, had not made any rulings as of April 28. The district had not made a response as of that date.
According to the civil suit, the girl identified as Jane Doe “has endured great pain, suffering, aggravation, inconvenience, mental and emotional distress in her life and day-to-day activities, all of which will continue well into the future.”
A trial date has not been scheduled.