The Auburn school district’s sexual harassment case goes to trial

A state judge dismissed parts of a sexual abuse lawsuit involving the Auburn Enlarged City School District but allowed remaining parts to proceed.

The lawsuit, filed by former Auburn student Pamela Deacon O’Grady in October 2019, alleges that the district and board of education failed to prevent, stop or report her alleged sexual abuse in the late 1970s and early 1980s by a former teacher music. and marching band director Thomas R. Camp, who was later added as a defendant in the lawsuit.

In a decision issued on April 5, Judge Joseph Waldorf of the New York State Supreme Court, 7th Judicial District, granted the school district’s motion to dismiss two counts of O’Grady’s lawsuit: failure to provide a safe environment and failure to report child abuse. However, Waldorf denied the district’s motion to dismiss for three other causes of action: failure to provide adequate supervision, failure to take steps to prevent or stop child abuse, and failure to train teachers, administrators and students about sexual abuse.

People also read…

The case is scheduled to begin hearing on November 13, 2024. Attorneys for both O’Grady and the district have appealed Waldorf’s decision to the state Appellate Division, Fourth Department.

In the lawsuit, O’Grady alleges sexual harassment by Camp that began in 1978 and continued until 1983, when she was a student. She says Camp abused her at least 630 times between 1978 and his resignation from the district in June 1980, and another 350 times thereafter. She could file a lawsuit under the New York State Child Victims Act.

In explaining his denial of the school district’s motion to dismiss the three plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Waldorf said the materials submitted to the court raised “the question of foreseeability of harm.”

For example, O’Grady testified that on one occasion a school official entered the concert hall while she was sitting on Camp’s lap. The judge also cited testimony from former district superintendent Peter Kachris, who said an assistant principal told him the teacher and student “were seen very often together, which raised questions about whether (Camp’s) behavior was appropriate.” Kachris testified that the district was “(closely) watching the situation” because the employee believed Camp was likely to engage in sexual harassment and misconduct.

Regarding the district’s alleged failure to provide sexual abuse training, Waldorf said there was no “statutorily recognized duty” requiring such training at the time. But O’Grady argues the district breached its common law duties, the judge continued, and there are “questions of fact” whether it knew or should have known of Camp’s alleged misconduct.

District law firm Ferrara Fiorenza said in a statement to The Citizen that staff responded quickly and appropriately to rumors of an inappropriate relationship between Camp and O’Grady.

“Both Mr. Camp and Ms. O’Grady denied that any type of inappropriate relationship existed at the time and actively concealed the existence of their relationship. “Nevertheless, the district has taken several steps to identify and prevent any inappropriate behavior, including, but not limited to, increased surveillance and the installation of windows in the team office doors,” the company said.

“In fact, district officials monitored and investigated the situation so diligently that they discovered behavior off school grounds by Ms. O’Grady and Mr. Camp that raised additional suspicions and immediately confronted Mr. Camp with these observations. When confronted, Mr. Camp resigned and never worked for the district again.”

In its statement, the company also referenced the Auburn school board’s vote in late January 2020 to initiate legal action against Camp. If the jury finds that O’Grady is entitled to monetary damages as a result of the alleged misconduct, the company argued that he should be required to pay it. The company added that the district is assured it will not have to pay O’Grady.

The lead attorney representing O’Grady, Michael G. Dowd, told The Citizen that the judge’s decision “did not actually cause us any harm” because “the substance of the complaint is intact.” He continued that despite years of complaints about Camp, the district had failed to meet “the duty of a reasonable parent to protect the children in its care from harm.”

Dowd further added that his client was “horribly damaged” by Camp’s alleged abuse and that it had a devastating impact on her career, marriage and enjoyment of life.

“At trial you will see a story of negligence and injuries inflicted on a human being that dramatically and devastatingly impacted his life,” he said.

Camp’s representative, David Fulvio of the law firm Barclay Damon, did not respond to The Citizen’s request for comment.

The lawsuit filed Thursday accuses the Auburn Enlarged City School District and its board of education of failing to stop a former teacher from having sex…

Author Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.