WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - A former student is suing the North Salem Central School District and Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES for allowing a sexual assault by a guidance counselor in the 1980s, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Aug. 20, in the state Supreme Court.
The plaintiff, Sean Boyle, is among hundreds who filed lawsuits this week under the amended Child Victims Acts.
Under the old law, a child sexual abuse offense could not be prosecuted after five years from when it happened and civil lawsuits had to be brought within three years of the victim's 18th birthday. But in February, Gov. Cuomo signed a bill that increased the amount of time for when crimes can be reported and allows the victims to bring a civil lawsuit any time before they reach 55 years of age. The bill also provides victims whose claims have timed out a one-year window during which they can take action.
According to the suit, Robert Reitman was a school counselor employed by the North Salem School District and BOCES from 1981-89 without completed background checks. Boyle was a student at North Salem Middle School from 1984-87, when the suit alleges the assault occurred.
North Salem Superintendent Kenneth Freeston said in an email on Aug. 22 that the district has not been served any documents. BOCES officials said it is their policy not to comment on pending litigation.
Boyle's attorney, Christina Killerlane, said in the suit that complaints were made to district and BOCES employees about inappropriate sexual conduct between Reitman and students including "adaptations and reconfigurations to this office, including inappropriate locking and screening mechanisms" mean to "provide inappropriate and unsupervised privacy with students."
The suit alleges Reitman would take students on excursions from the middle school without parental permission where "Reitman was in exclusive control of these students without supervision, allowing Reitman to engage in sexual misconduct with these students."
The suit also alleges that the district witnessed inappropriate sexual conduct between Reitman and students and failed to investigate the complaints and conduct. The district failed to properly train their employees to identify signs of child molestation and failed to have sufficient policies and procedures to prevent abuse, the suit says.
Boyle was sexually assaulted and molested at the middle school, "causing serious and permanent personal and psychological injuries," and the district knew about the assault and allowed "unsupervised and unlimited access" to children, the suit says.
The suit claims the district knew about Reitman's sexual misconduct, impulses and behavior before Boyle was assaulted as well.
"Despite clear indications of danger, [the district] took no steps to discover the specific nature of Retiman's problems or to determine whether he was fit to work with children or to protect children from him, there by increasing the likelihood that [Boyle] would be harmed," the suit states.
Reitman, now 78, was convicted of promoting and possessing child pornography on Sept. 10, 1988. He served 15 months in prison for those charges and currently lives in Arizona where he reports to the Arizona Department of Public Safety Sex Offender Compliance Unit.