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Time running out on former Handley student suit

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Adrian Ellis

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

A former Handley High School student suing her old teacher and principals has two weeks to serve them with the complaint, or it will be dismissed from U.S. District Court.

Lennis Waldruff filed a $2 million lawsuit against Principal V. Douglas Joyner, Assistant Principal Ellen Wheeler, the Winchester School Board and former art teacher Adrian A. Ellis on Feb. 27, according to online court records.

Two years ago, Ellis, 33, was convicted in Winchester Circuit Court of several counts of taking indecent liberties with a student and providing her with alcohol, and sent to jail for six months. He was re-jailed last year after violating his probation in multiple ways.

Ellis had engaged in sex with a student at the school and elsewhere in 2008 and 2009.

According to the Virginia State Police sex offender registry, Ellis now lives in Richmond.

Waldruff wasn't the student Ellis had been having sex with at school, but many students thought she was and harassed her, according to her suit. It states Joyner and Wheeler didn't protect her, and pressured her not to return to Handley after Ellis' arrest.

The complaint also states Joyner was warned about Ellis' sexual involvement with students, but didn't investigate the accusation or report it to the Winchester Department of Social Services.

It also states it was "common knowledge around John Handley High School" that Ellis dated another girl the year before his arrest, but school administrators failed to act.

Waldruff's lawsuit also claims Joyner -- after a parent complained to school staff and city police -- told the errant teacher to go home and "get his ducks in a row," allowing him to remove any incriminating items before police could search.

The former student claims she received sexually graphic texts and notes from Ellis -- harassment she wouldn't have received had Joyner acted on previous complaints, the suit alleges.

According to online court records, plaintiffs have 120 days from the date a complaint is filed to serve it on the defendants. If the suit isn't served, the case must be dismissed, or the court must order it be served within a certain period of time, court records filed Monday state. The court is required to extend the allotted time if the plaintiff shows good cause.

A June 11 letter from federal court clerk Julia C. Dudley to Waldruff's attorneys states the lawsuit hasn't been served on the defendants, and they have until June 26 to do so.

Joyner has since resigned from the high school, and taken an instructional job within the school division.

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