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April 25, 2017
By Stephanie Kim, Stamford Advocate.
WILTON — Some parents are outraged after learning that the town and Board of Education are trying to dismiss a sexual assault suit involving an incident at Miller-Driscoll from 2012.
Court documents reveal the town and Board of Education are seeking governmental immunity, claiming they can’t be held responsible for sexual allegations involving former Wilton preschool paraprofessional Eric Von Kohorn, who was employed from 2007-14.
The lawsuit alleges Von Kohorn took a 4-year-old female preschooler, though fully toilet-trained, into the bathroom alone and “inappropriately touched, sexually assaulted and battered” her, causing visible injury to her genital area.
Sam Sidhu, a parent with children in the district not involved in the case, said she feels that while the new details contained in the deposition are certainly disturbing, the outrage should have been from the beginning, once it was known the parents were never told that Von Kohorn admitted, after lying, that he took the girl alone into the bathroom and remained on staff without any formal supervision or record in his file.
She said Von Kohorn could still be in the schools today if it weren’t for the State Police arresting him in August 2014, for unrelated charges of first-degree possession of child pornography and promoting a minor in an obscene performance. Von Kohorn later pleaded guilty to illegal possession of child pornography in 2015 and was sentenced to six years, suspended after two years served and followed by 10 years of probation.
“And nobody would know anything about this, because the arrest prompted all of this to come out, not our schools,” Sidhu said.
“They have never taken a strong stand on this,” she added, referring to the Board of Education and school administration. “A handful of parents have repeatedly asked for stronger policies and a mechanism for ensuring they are enforced as well as clear penalties for failure to comply.”
Sidhu felt the same way about the public comment Board of Education Chairman Bruce Likly submitted on April 21, in response to strong and negative public backlash on social media after a Wilton Bulletin article was published on April 20.
The article reported: “The town, in its filing, alleges the preschool girl’s behavior at times was ‘flirtatious.’”
This statement referred to comments made by a former teacher who called the student “flirtatious” and “provocative,” which Fred Rapcyznski, the preschool director at the time of the alleged sexual assault, mentioned during a deposition.
Likly called the article “dramatic and sensationalized characterization,” and said the town’s insurance company is solely responsible for legal strategy.
“At most there may only be two or three people in the world who know the real facts in this case and none of those people are on the Board of Education, employed by the District or weighing in with their opinions on social media,” he said in the statement. “Our hearts and concerns go out to everyone involved and we are hopeful the legal process will result in the best possible resolution to an incredibly difficult situation for all.”
Though First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice said it would not be appropriate to comment, she said she has met with Wilton Police Chief John Lynch after a resident recently contacted her and suggested self-examination by the town. She has asked Lynch to review all police records to ensure actions by the police were appropriate and comprehensive, as both of them were not in their current positions when the State Police contacted the department in 2012 and 2014, she added. She has also reached out to Wilton Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith.
The lawsuit filed in October 2015 alleges the school administration did not respond appropriately after being informed.
The alleged incident occurred on Dec. 21, 2012, and was reported to Rapcyznski on Jan. 3, because the student’s parents weren’t able to reach any school officials during the holiday break, according to court documents.
Rapcyznski waited four days to report the incident to the Department of Children and Families instead of submitting a report within 12 hours of notification, as mandated, documents state.
In his report, Rapcyznski claimed his initial interviews with Von Kohorn and others who worked with the student led him to conclude that the information “did not support the girl’s claims.” But after a second interview with Von Kohorn, Rapcynzski submitted another report and informed the DCF that Von Kohorn admitted to lying in the first interview and had escorted the student into the building to the bathroom and told another staff member he was doing so while standing outside of the bathroom — information that was not shared with the parents, according to court documents. The state informed the district within a day they would do no further investigation.
The Board of Education performed no further investigation and also did not discipline Von Kohorn in any way, despite his violation of policy prohibiting him from taking female preschool students into the bathroom alone, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit further claims the school board instead placed Von Kohorn into another classroom, where he continued to work directly with other Miller-Driscoll preschool students.
The motion to dismiss the case was made March 2, which was opposed on March 31 and responded to on April 14. Jury selection is scheduled for Sept. 6.
Thomas Gerarde and Krista Winters of Hartford’s Howd & Ludorf, LLC, who represent the town and Board of Education, could not be reached for comment.
Paul Slager, who represents both families with his colleague Michael Kennedy, declined to comment in light of the fact that the case is sensitive and pending.
Slager and Kennedy also represent a second family who came forward in a lawsuit against the town and Board of Education in October 2016, with allegations that Von Kohorn “sexually exploited and injured” their 4-year-old son during the 2013-14 school year. The lawsuit claims Von Kohorn brought the fully toilet-trained boy into the bathroom alone and photographed him while his pants were down.