Jury sides with Helms, school board

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 30, 2007

By Holly Lee

Salisbury Post

A jury has ruled against former teacher Laurie Mendiola, finding that she has no right to damages from former Principal Tony Helms or the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.

After hearing attorneys’ closing arguments through most of the day Monday, the jury took less than an hour to reach its verdict in the school sexual harassment trial.

Mendiola accused Helms, her former supervisor at West Rowan Middle School, of forcing her into an affair and school administrators of knowing about the situation but doing nothing.

B. Ervin Brown, Mendiola’s attorney, urged jurors to consider the credibility of several witnesses in the case and the difference in demeanor during the trial between Mendiola and Helms.

Ken Soo, attorney for the school board, spoke to jurors about the various steps school employees took to investigate the relationship. He also pointed out that Mendiola knew her rights about sexual harassment but didn’t report any mistreatment.

Soo asked the jury not to hold the school board liable for any injury to Mendiola.