Rice University, ex-piano instructor named in lawsuit alleging child sex abuse

Dariusz Pawlas

HOUSTON – A Houston woman has filed a civil lawsuit alleging negligence and assault against Rice University and a former piano instructor -- who is serving time for indecency with another child -- claiming she endured years of abuse that began when she was just 10 years old.

“I feel very betrayed,” said the victim’s mother. “We had been with Rice for many years, and I thought we were doing right by our child the whole time, when what we were actually doing was putting her in danger.”

According to the lawsuit, Dariusz Pawlas began sexually abusing the child during private piano lessons at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

This case differs from the 2016 case in that the alleged victim claims the abuse happened on the Rice campus. This case specifically names Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music as the place where the alleged abuse occurred. The 2016 case documents said Pawlas, who was employed by the university, taught out of his home because he is legally blind. Rice campus instruction was not mentioned -- until now.

Houston-based Blizzard Law PLLC is representing the victim, who is listed as “I.R.” in the lawsuit filed in Harris County. Read the lawsuit here.

The law firm noted Pawlas received his master’s and doctorate in musical arts at Rice University, and his students ranged from first graders to high school seniors. According to the lawsuit, the abuse consisted of groping the girl and placing his aroused body against her while he stood behind her at the piano during lessons.

“This type of behavior by a trusted teacher in a young girl’s life should never be tolerated,” said lawyer Anna Greenberg. “Not only should he be held accountable to the highest degree, but Rice University is also responsible for the traumatic experiences this young girl and others experienced at the hands of…Pawlas.”

Pawlas is currently incarcerated in Rusk County, following a 2016 conviction for felony indecency with another student. The law firm noted Pawlas became eligible for parole on April 1, 2021.

Lawyers in the suit contend that following the first complaint of abuse, Rice University neither fired Pawlas nor informed parents of his other students. The university, the law firm claims, waited six months to fire him and only did so the day after he was criminally charged. In the interim, Pawlas had confessed his inappropriate conduct to police, the law firm representing the alleged victim claims.

KPRC 2 received this from Rice University’s Jeff Falk: “Rice doesn’t comment on pending litigation.”

KPRC 2 is working to determine whether law enforcement is pursuing any charges in this case.

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About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.