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Another former Freeburg student alleges sex abuse

Published: Friday, June 13, 2014 11:04 a.m. CDT

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — A fifth former elementary school student in a southwestern Illinois district is alleging he was sexually abused by the school's superintendent who later killed himself while being investigated.

The former student of Carl L. Barton Elementary School in Freeburg isn't named in a federal lawsuit he filed Wednesday against the school district, the Belleville News-Democrat reported Friday.

That plaintiff, now 19, alleges Robin Hawkins molested him on school property while he was in seventh and eighth grade in 2008 and 2009. The accuser alleges that he sustained permanent physical and mental injuries from the abuse, including panic attacks and sexual, intimacy and behavioral dysfunction.

Messages left Friday by The Associated Press with the district's superintendent, Tomi Diefenbach, and its attorney, Heidi Eckert, were not immediately returned.

The school district last year paid $5.6 million to settle several other lawsuits by former elementary students who alleged that Hawkins molested them. Many of the lawsuits said the school system's workers knew about the pattern of sexual-misconduct complaints involving Hawkins dating to the early 1980s but failed to properly supervise him to prevent the abuse.

The district denied any wrongdoing as part of the settlements.

In a 2009 interview by Illinois State Police, Hawkins denied sexual relationships with any student but admitted to having what he called inappropriate sexual conversations with some students, according to the newspaper.

A month after investigators interviewed Hawkins in April 2009 and confiscated several computers, Hawkins' body was found in a 1964 Mustang convertible in a barn near Belleville. The cause of his death appeared to be suicide by carbon monoxide asphyxiation.

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