Education

Students File Three Lawsuits Related to Alleged Sexual Misconduct By Former Columbia H. S. Teacher

502e510c6fe04fe72a47_chs_teacher.jpg
Nicole Dufault, former Columbia High School teacher.
502e510c6fe04fe72a47_chs_teacher.jpg

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Three lawsuits have been filed against the South Orange Maplewood School District -- the most recent just two month ago -- by students of a former Columbia High School teacher accused of sexual misconduct with up to six under-aged boys.

Nicole Dufault, who was arrested in September 2014, and is still awaiting trial on related criminal charges, is named in the civil suits along with the school district. 

The legal complaints, all filed in just the past 15 months, seek damages for Dufault’s alleged actions, and claims that she coerced the students into performing oral sex, pressured them due to her authority as a teacher, and caused emotional distress and psychological injury.

Sign Up for E-News

The lawsuits also claim the school district is at fault for allowing unsupervised areas of Columbia High School (CHS) to be accessible during a 2013 summer program in which many of the incidents allegedly occurred. It contends the sexual acts were able to take place in those areas of the school that lacked supervision.

In addition, the complaints contend the school and the district are liable for the alleged criminal acts because they are required to provide a safe atmosphere for the students.

TAPinto SOMA obtained the lawsuits through a public information request of the school district. All identities of the plaintiffs have been redacted along with the names of their parents who filed on their behalf. 

The first lawsuit, filed Sept. 30, 2016, was brought forth by parents of two minor students whose names were not released. It seeks $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages, as well as court and legal costs.

The lawsuit contends both students were victims of sexual assault, abuse and harassment beginning in early August 2014 and lasting for two months. It also claims both were “intellectually disabled” and had “social communication difficulties” and were “vulnerable to sexual harassment.”

The suit contends Dufault engaged in oral sex and sexual intercourse with both students and that complaints were made against Dufault to the district soon after that the district allegedly ignored.

The second lawsuit, also filed in September 2016, was brought on behalf of a third former student who was a freshman in the spring of 2014 when he alleges the abuse began. It claims that the student and other youngsters were invited to cut class and “hangout” in Dufault’s classroom during off periods and that she even used the school computer to change their records so they would not be caught skipping class.

The suit alleges that Dufault “spoke with them about lewd and sexual actions, brushed up again their bodies and touched intimate and personal parts of their bodies in front of other students in the social group.” It also contends she engaged in sexual acts with the students that were video recorded.

As with the previous lawsuit, his complaint also claims the school district is liable because it failed to properly supervise Dufault’s classroom at those times.

The third lawsuit, filed just this past October, was brought on behalf of a fourth former student. It seeks no specific damages, but also contends Dufault abused the male teen.

This alleged victim claims his abuse occurred during the summer of 2013 when Dufault was involved in the summer “Bridge Program,” and included several alleged sexual acts in various CHS locations, as well as Dufault’s car in the CHS parking lot.

The complaint also seeks damages against the school district for failing to properly supervise the high school to prevent such alleged crimes.

Attorneys for the two previous lawsuits could not be reached for comment, but John McDonnell, who represents the fourth plaintiff, said he did not name a damage amount because more information is needed.

“It’s premature to say what we’re seeking,” McDonnell said. “There are two sides to every story, until I hear the other side it is hard for me to evaluate the case.”

Dufault’s attorney, Tim Smith, disagreed with the claims against Dufault and again repeated his ongoing defense that Dufault was the victim. He has in the past cited her suffering from “frontal lobe syndrome,” which he blamed on brain surgery Dufault underwent following complications from her first pregnancy.

“You had a particularly overly aggressive group of students who came into contact with a teacher who suffered from brain damage,” Smith said in an interview.

But he did agree that the unsupervised areas of the high school where the incidents allegedly occurred were part of the problem.

“You had a program that took place in an isolated part of the school where there was nobody there to control the situation, then you couple that with the fact that the school never screened her post-brain surgery,” Smith said. “She also had a home front situation that was troubled with her husband having been arrested and she was taking care of the kids herself. You had a whirlwind of events that led to this victimization of her.”

Asked to comment on the lawsuits, School District Spokeswoman Suzanne Turner issued the following statement via email:

The allegations are deeply disturbing. The nature of the charges are the most difficult that schools, parents and children would ever have to discuss together. 

By law, administrators and Board of Education members are not permitted to publicly discuss personnel or individual student matters, ongoing litigation, or other issues requiring confidentiality. However, we can affirm we believe deeply in our mission to provide our students with a safe and healthy learning environment. We are hopeful that the process will bring closure to this painful chapter in our community’s history.

The school district like most other districts has liability insurance that would likely cover any damages.

Related article
 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

SOMA

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast Episode 17

On this week’s AtlantiCast, it’s National Men’s Health Month, so check out important health tips for you or the men in your life, learn about groundbreaking research into breast cancer treatment that could mean an end to chemotherapy for some patients, meet a local sports hero who’s living his baseball dreams thanks to Goryeb Children’s Hospital and much ...

South Orange Police Blotter - iPhone Reported Stolen from Basketball Courts

June 21, 2018

South Orange Police Blotter as of June 21

Burglary - The owner of a business on Vose Avenue reported that sometime between 12:45 p.m., Sunday, June 17,  and 10 a.m., Monday, June 18, actor(s) unknown forcibly gained access to the business through the front door, rummaged through cabinets and desks and removed some personal items (including Bose brand speakers ...

South Orange Police Blotter: Robbery Reported on South Orange Avenue

South Orange Police Blotter as of June 16

Robbery - An Alpha, NJ resident reported that he was robbed on Sunday, June 3, at approximately 12:30 a.m. while he was walking on South Orange Avenue near Scotland Road. The victim stated that he was approached by three unknown actors who punched him and knocked him to the ground. The actors then stole his cell phone and wallet ...

Maplewood's Hilton Neighborhood Association Celebrates 23rd Anniversary

June 24, 2018

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The Hilton Neighborhood Association celebrated its 23rd Anniversary on Wednesday evening, June 20.

The event took place at the Springfield Avenue Gazebo with entertainment by the Swing Town Band. 

All photos courtesy of Carl Patterson of CP Photo Op Photography.

South Orange's Allyson Murphy Mobilizes Mothers in Newark to Protest Trump Family Separation Policy

NEWARK, NJ - A group of New Jersey mothers took time to come to Newark with the kind of loved ones recently taken from other mothers: their children.

"It's unconscionable that our government is stealing children from their parents and locking them up in cages," said Christina Liu, a Montclair mom holding her baby daughter, commenting on President Donald Trump's recent ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, June 26, 6:30 PM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

Memoir Writing Class at Millburn Library

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_ebf7aa55086e734989d5_btpffstbh

Thu, June 28, 6:30 PM

The Book House, Millburn

Book to Plate

Food & Drink

Carousel_image_af1b89eae735bf536426_par440_promo

Fri, June 29, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Carousel_image_ab87d453f7ef0862e666_2018montage2804x956-3

Tue, July 3, 4:30 PM

Maplewood Memorial Park, Maplewood

First Time Ever July 3rd Circus Performances and ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink Other

Men’s Shul Softball League Unites in Livingston to Support Parkland Community

June 23, 2018

LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Men’s Shul Softball League, consisting of teams from temples throughout Livingston, West Orange, Short Hills and other neighboring communities in Essex and Morris counties, gathered in Livingston prior to regular play on Sunday morning in support of Make Our Schools Safe, an organization started by the parents of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School ...

Lecia Bianca Jewels Creates a Bridge to Make Bloomfield Center the Next Style Destination

BLOOMFIELD, NJ - The Bloomfield Center renaissance continues as Lecia Bianca Jewels becomes a style destination on main thoroughfare in this Essex County Community. Lecia Clay, owner of the boutique, describes her jewelry as 'bridge jewelry,' - pieces that are in a space between costume jewelry and fine jewelry, while having value. 

'Lecia Bianca' is the ...

Murphy Signs Bill Ending Child Marriage Championed by Westfield’s Fraidy Reiss and Unchained at Last

June 25, 2018

WESTFIELD, NJ — Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill Friday that bars individuals under the age of 18 from marrying or entering a civil union. It was a major win for Fraidy Reiss, founder of the Westfield-based Unchained At Last, a nonprofit dedicated to helping women and girls in the US to escape or resist arranged/forced marriages and rebuild their lives.

This makes New Jersey the ...

Suspect in Union Carjacking Takes Own Life in Hillside

UNION, NJ – A Baltimore man ended up taking his own life in the Hillside Police Department after he was arrested for a suspected attempted carjacking in Union Friday afternoon.

The Maryland man, Jermaine Covington, 41, was arrested and used an officer’s service weapon to take his life, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan announced Saturday.

Covington left the scene ...

South Orange Summer 2018 Student Leadership Institute

June 23, 2018

Program Overview and Application Form: (Deadline to Apply: Wednesday, June 27)

The Township of South Orange Village is pleased to offer students the opportunity to learn and practice leadership skills in the areas of local government and civic engagement where they will interact with a variety of elected officials, municipal departments, and community leaders.

The Student Leadership ...

Welcome To South Orange, Drive 25!

With very few exceptions, the speed limit throughout the Village is 25 miles per hour.

Along with barbeques, trips down the shore, and local ice cream runs, July and August mark the summer driving season. If you are driving in, or through South Orange, that means driving at 25 miles per hour. “Welcome to South Orange, now drive 25” says Lt. Michael Corrigan, the head of the SOPD ...

Weekly Specials at Ashley Marketplace - June 22 to June 28

Shop Ashley Marketplace & Cafe for your everyday needs!

This week's specials are:          

Chobani Yogurt 32oz $6.99
Friendly’s Ice Cream 48floz $3.99
Turkey Hero $5.99 ea (Deli)
Brad’s Blues Tortilla Chips  $2.99
Housemade Premade Lemonade 16oz $4.99 (Bakery)
Red Wax Gouda $5.99lb ...