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May 1, 2017
By Angela Carella | Stamford Advocate. STAMFORD — Substitute “high-schooler” for “preschooler” and a case in state Superior Court mirrors one that recently devastated the Stamford school district.
The latest case involves the Wilton district and a 4-year-old girl who was unnaturally quiet when her mother picked her up one day from a public preschool. At home, the girl broke down, telling her mother that a male teacher’s aide had hurt her in the bathroom.
The Stamford High School case involved a female teacher who had a months-long sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male student.
But the cases bear striking similarities.
In both, school administrators conducted internal investigations instead of reporting suspicions of abuse to the state within the required 12 hours.
Students in both cases were left to attend school with their suspected abusers for the duration of the 2013-14 year.
In both, administrators did not report their suspicions until forced to do so by someone outside the school system.
And, in both cases, school officials ended up in court and educators in prison.
The pattern has been documented in abuse cases in school districts nationwide.
In the civil case of Girl Doe vs. the Wilton Board of Education and Town of Wilton, the parents allege officials failed to take action that would have prevented a Miller-Driscoll School teacher’s aide, Eric Von Kohorn, of Fairfield, from assaulting their daughter.
Depositions released this month reveal the girl returned home from school one day in late December 2012 and told her mother she had to urinate but couldn’t because it hurt. Finding the child’s genital area red and swollen, the mother asked how it happened. The girl said, “Mr. Eric wiped me too hard,” the mother testified.
She and her husband contacted then-Preschool Director Fred Rapczynski, who testified their report gave him “enough suspicion to find out from my staff if there was any opportunity for that to have occurred.”
Rapczynski questioned whether Von Kohorn had the opportunity to assault the girl because the preschool had a policy barring male staff from taking a female student into the bathroom alone.
Rapczynski testified he investigated and determined he did not have enough information to support the child’s claims. His investigation included questioning Von Kohorn, who told him he did not take the girl into the bathroom, Rapczynski said.
Rapczynski questioned Von Kohorn again, and the teacher admitted he had, in fact, taken the girl to the bathroom.
Rapczynski did not report the incident to the state Department of Children and Families. But the girl’s father told him four days later that he wanted another opinion, so Rapczynski called the DCF hotline, according to testimony.
Court documents include a Jan. 8, 2013 letter to Rapczynski from DCF stating the agency would not investigate because the information reported did not meet the statutory definition of abuse.