The suit alleges the school district knew of the alleged offenses, but took no action and failed to notify police
Two women have filed a lawsuit against the Cape Henlopen School District Board of Education alleging a man was allowed to work there even after district authorities, including the school board, were told of sexual abuse claims against him.
In a press release by the Wilmington law firm of Jacobs and Crumplar, the man is identified as Derek Dutton, whom it describes as “a staff member and agent/and/or employee” of the school district.
Other defendants include the district Superintendent Robert Fulton, Cape High School Principal Nikki Miller, and former Principal Brian Donahue.
The action was filed by Theresa Collins and Virginia Collins, as the legal representatives of a minor female student.
The complaint was filed Jan. 23 in Superior Court.
The suit makes a number of allegations against Dutton, who was part of the school’s theater department, but not a licensed teacher. This included the use of sexually explicit language and in April of that year, putting his hand down a girl’s pants.
The first girl only was identified as a Cape senior, but the second was identified as Theresa Collins, who was a Cape junior at the time; these incidents took place in March and April 2015.
According to the suit, the girls filed separate incident reports in May 2015, and told Miller, who said the matter “would be taken care of and police contacted.”
In 2014, Dutton reportedly made other remarks, such as telling an intern who has spilled water on her blouse, that “We all like you better when you’re wet.”
Donahue, who was principal at the time, allegedly scoffed and rolled his eyes at the accusation and did nothing. The board also did nothing when Dutton allegedly used a slur directed at a Jewish student, the suit says.
Despite this, Dutton continued to work at the school despite Fulton promising he would not be allowed on campus when students were present. The suit also alleges neither incident was reported to police. Theresa and the girl continued to encounter Dutton.
“This caused them fear and anxiety and interrupted their normal educations,” according to a statement released by the law firm.
Dutton continued to work on school property, as Virginia Collins and her husband had reported to school authorities on several occasions.
An investigation also failed to turn up the 2015 police reports.
The suit alleges that while school authorities had the authority to take action, they failed to do so and that the school board failed to act as well. It also alleges law enforcement officials were never contacted after any of the incidents came to light.
This resulted in emotional and mental distress for both Collins women and the young girl.
The women are alleging violations of Title IX, gross negligence, and other causes of action relating to the conduct of school officials at the Cape Henlopen School District.
The suit asks compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees, costs, special damages and other relief as decided by the Superior Court.