EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 24, 2012

Town, teachers cleared in rape lawsuit

Plaintiffs withdraw suit over school trip

By Bill Kirk
bkirk@eagletribune.com

---- — ANDOVER — The town, two teachers and a Cambridge travel company have won a lawsuit brought against them by a former high school student who claimed her civil rights were violated when she was raped by another student during a school-sponsored trip to Germany in 2008.

On Nov. 19, U.S. District Court Judge George O’Toole approved the judgment in favor of the town of Andover, teachers Josephine Goldman and Brian Shea, and EF Cultural Travel of Cambridge.

Sam Perkins, a Boston lawyer who represented the town and the teachers, said the disposition was highly unusual.

“Most cases end by dismissal or a settlement,” he said. “That is not the case here. This is a case, after discovery was done, where it became clear there was no basis for the lawsuit.”

He said the plaintiffs, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, John Doe and Kathy Doe, after hearing testimony from three witnesses in the case, decided to withdraw the lawsuit. Their attorney, Daniel Malis, had no comment.

Perkins, however, said if the case was going to be withdrawn, he wanted to make sure it was clear his clients had won the case.

“We said, if the case was going to be withdrawn, it would only be withdrawn by clear entry of judgment in favor of the defendants and there would be no basis of any claim against them,” he said. “The agreement by both sides is that the judgement will be entered for the defendants. You see that almost never.”

Perkins said his clients, particularly the two teachers involved, “are glad they have been vindicated. They are glad to put this behind them and they hope the plaintiff does well.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in August 2011, alleged that during an April 2008 trip to Germany, the girl, who was 16 at the time, was raped following an after-hours drinking party in a hotel room by another high school student from Vermont. The suit claimed that supervision of the students was inadequate, that alcohol was readily available in the hotel and throughout the weeklong trip, and that the girl was mistreated by the teachers serving as chaperones following the alleged sexual assault.

The suit named the town of Andover, teacher/chaperones Josephine Goldin and Brian Shea, and EF Cultural Travel, the company that set up the trip.

The attorney for EF Cultural Travel could not be reached for comment.

Perkins said the girl and her parents decided to drop the case after depositions from three key witnesses: “The young man who had the encounter, the chaperone from his school in Vermont, and a friend of the plaintiff who was with her throughout the trip.”

Those three witnesses countered nearly every major detail of the lawsuit brought by the girl and her parents, he said.

He stopped short of saying that the girl made up the story, noting that his clients didn’t want him to get into details about what did or didn’t happen that night or during the trip.

“They (the teachers) had a close relationship with her,” Perkins said. “It was very poor judgment and very harmful to them to bring the lawsuit. But they don’t want to discuss the details about what happened. People will have to draw their own conclusions.”

He said the claim that she was not treated well by the chaperones was also refuted by the testimony.

“There was truly no basis for that claim,” he said.

He added, “the judgment was for them. They have been vindicated and they wish the plaintiff well. They are glad to put this behind them and plan to move on.”

Perkins said they are also glad that a cloud of suspicion has been lifted.

“Their experience now for four years has been under a cloud because of these accusations,” he said. “They feel this result is the result everyone should have realized from the start.”

While the lawsuit was hanging over them and the town, Goldin and Shea, who have supervised a number of overseas trips in the past, decided to opt out of this year’s April trip to London.

School Superintendent Marinel McGrath did not comment on the disposition of the case.