A former New Jersey high school teacher accused of sexual misconduct with six teenage boys is now the focus of three lawsuits filed against her and the school district she was once employed at.
Nicole Dufault, 38, who was arrested in July 2014, is named in the civil suits along with South Orange Maplewood School District, Tap Into reported. Dufault, a former language arts teacher at Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J., for about nine years, was accused of sexually assaulting up to six male students. Dufault, of Bloomfield, was awaiting trial on the criminal charges.
The lawsuits, all filed in the last 15 months, seek “damages for Dufault’s alleged actions and claims she coerced the students into performing oral sex, pressured them due to her authority as a teacher and caused emotional distress and psychological injury,” Tap Into reported.
The suit also accused the school of keeping areas of the school open and unsupervised during a summer 2013 program when the sexual acts between the students and Dufault occurred. The suit accused the school of not being a safe environment for students.
A Sept. 30, 2016 lawsuit, which was filed by the parents of two students, sought $1 million in “compensatory and punitive damages” and court and legal fees. The students in connection with the lawsuit were reportedly victims of Dufault. The suit claims the students were both “intellectually disabled” with “social communication difficulties” and “were vulnerable to sexual harassment.”
The parents claimed in the suit Dufault had sex and oral sex with the two students and the school district ignored the complaints made against the educator.
Another lawsuit, filed by a third student in Sept. 2016, accuses Dufault of sexual abuse that began when he was a freshman in 2014. The suit claimed Dufault invited students to “hang out” in her classroom during free periods.
The suit stated 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.” The suit also alleged the sexual relations between the educator and students were filmed. The suit blamed the school district for its failure to supervise the teacher’s classroom.
The last lawsuit was filed by a fourth student in October 2017. No damages were sought but it accused Dufault of sexually abusing the male student. The victim claimed Dufault abused him in the summer of 2013 during “Bridge Program” and said the acts occurred in the teacher’s car and different locations around the school.
Tim Smith, Dufault’s attorney, told Tap Into the educator suffered from “frontal lobe syndrome” and was a victim herself.
“You had a particularly overly aggressive group of students who came into contact with a teacher who suffered from brain damage,” Smith said.
The attorney agreed the school was not properly supervised, however.
“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.”
Dufault, a mother of two, filed for divorce from Drew Dufault in July 2013, around the time the alleged inappropriate incidents occurred, NJ.com reported. Her ex-husband was arrested in 2015 for burglary and drug offenses.
Suzanne Turner, a spokeswoman for the school district, called the allegations “deeply disturbing.”
“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,” Turner wrote in a statement.
“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 statement concluded.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.