A former Hopewell Valley student submitted documents to the School Board and filed a claim with the Court* today indicating that she intends to file a $10,000,000 lawsuit against Hopewell Valley Regional School District related to an alleged sexual assault by a District teacher at Timberlane Middle School.
The former student alleges persistent inappropriate sexual conduct, both physical and verbal, by the teacher. The documents claim that this conduct began when the student was a 13 year-old eighth grader at the school. The documents assert that, as a result of this alleged inappropriate conduct, the student was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, and depression.
“Out of their concern for the well-being of female students at Timberlane, including the anonymous student’s own sister, our clients had hoped to privately resolve this matter with Hopewell Valley months ago, in a way that could have prevented the alleged inappropriate and unlawful conduct from ever happening again,” said John Rue of John Rue & Associates, the lawyer representing the anonymous student and her family. “But the District apparently thought the best course of action was to stonewall the family and circle the wagons until we file this formal notice (prior to filing a lawsuit), therefore allowing (the teacher) to continue in his position and leaving scores of other teenage girls at risk, despite the very serious allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate sexual conduct made against him.”
In an email, Dr. Thomas Smith, superintendent of the Hopewell Valley Regional School District stated, “We are aware of a Notice of Tort Claim that has been filed accusing a Timberlane Middle School teacher of an alleged incident that occurred during the 2016-17 school year.
“In accordance with New Jersey law and our School District policies, when we were first notified of these allegations in November 2018, we immediately reported the accusations to the Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) Division of Institutional Abuse and the Hopewell Township Police, who notified the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. The staff member was then removed from the classroom. Multiple independent, governmental investigations have determined that there was no wrongdoing by our staff member, and he was reinstated to the classroom.
“Due to the fact that this is a pending legal matter, I am limited in the information that I can share; however, I will share that we have the highest expectations for professional behavior on the part of our staff, and the well-being of our students is our foremost concern. We have followed all appropriate protocols and procedures regarding this matter.
“Because this incident involves a District staff member, I want our families to know that if any student needs help processing this information, we encourage you to contact your child’s principal.”
*Edited at 2pm to clarify that the claim has been filed.