Medomak Valley High School graduate files suit, alleges sexual harassment by former principal

Mon, 12/30/2019 - 2:00pm

    PORTLAND — The attorneys for a former Medomak Valley High School student have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Portland, alleging that during her junior and senior years, she was subjected to daily sexually harassment and discrimination by the former principal.

    The lawsuit, filed Dec. 27, names MSAD 40/RSU 40, Medomak Valley High School, former principal Andrew Cavanaugh, and social worker Chuck Nguyen as the defendants.

    The suit, filed in federal court, cites Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 (“Title IX).

    The lawsuit alleges that Cavanaugh began to pay special attention to the former student when she was 16 and made sexually based comments to her about her looks and clothing in front of other students and staff members at the high school.

    The former student, now 19, claims that Cavanaugh purchased personal hygiene items and gave them to her, again in front of other students and staff. She said that she reported the gifts to Nguyen and asked him whether this was normal and he assured her that there was nothing inappropriate about the gifts, according to the lawsuit.

    Some of the gifts included money which Cavanaugh allegedly gave the former student directly or left with a secretary at the school.

    The woman said that Cavanaugh began texting her on a frequent basis and between April 2017 and November 2017 there were approximately 5,000 text messages sent by the defendant. In one text, he said that he might have to give the woman “a spanking.”

    The comments were mainly sexually explicit and inappropriate and were sent at all hours of the day, including during school hours, and as late as 2 a.m., according to the lawsuit.

    In the fall of 2017, a third party notified the Waldoboro Police Department about the inappropriate relationship between Cavanaugh and the woman. The school district placed Cavanaugh on administrative leave pending the results of the police investigation and he resigned as principal in December 2017.

    He had been principal at the high school since 2015.

    According to the lawsuit, as a result of Cavanaugh’s actions, the woman has suffered severe emotional distress including social anxiety and other disorders. 

    The suit also states that the school district was negligent in their hiring, training and/or supervision of Cavanaugh and Nguyen and that the negligence was the proximate cause of the woman’s injuries. Additionally, the district had a duty to train and educate their employees about its sexual harassment policy and not crossing inappropriate boundaries with students and it recklessly and negligently failed to implement and enforce these policies.

    The woman is represented by attorneys Rachel Deschuytner of Portland and Eric LeBlanc of Cambridge, Mass. They have requested a jury trial on every claim in the lawsuit.

    The defendants are represented by Attorney Melissa Hewey of Drummond Woodsum in Portland. Hewey could not immediately be reached for comment.

    Sarah Shepherd can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com