AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Independent School District and James Bowie High School theatre director, Diane Elizabeth “Betsy” Cornwell, are facing a lawsuit from five former female students who said Cornwell was sexually inappropriate, emotionally abusive and provided drugs to a student, according to court documents.
Cornwell, who taught in AISD for over 30 years, was placed on administrative leave.
The former students alleged AISD continued to employ Cornwell despite multiple complaints made about her behavior.
“Cornwell would play the phone messages she received from parents complaining out loud to students, purposefully targeting and embarrassing the student,” the lawsuit filed by the former students’ attorneys read.
James Bowie High School this summer named the new Fine Arts Center after Cornwell.
“So happy to honor our long time Theater teacher, Elizabeth Cornwell, by naming our new Fine Arts Center after her. She had given so much to students for so many years. Congratulations!” the Bowie High School Twitter posted on Aug. 8.
According to the lawsuit, honoring Cornwell by naming the new center after her was emotionally distressing to the women involved in the lawsuit.
“(The former students) were forced to remember in detail the abuse they suffered and understand that their abuse was still being ignored and shunned by (AISD), who were praising and commending their assaulter,” the court filing read.
The lawsuit was filed on Sept. 29 in federal court.
KXAN has reached out to AISD for comment and will update this story when we get a response. KXAN is also awaiting a response from the attorney representing the plaintiffs.