Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cherry Hill board pays $35,000 to settle teacher/student sex assault case

On May 16, 2011, a federal judge approved an agreement under which the Cherry Hill Board of Education (Camden County) would pay $35,000 to a then fourteen year-old school student at Rosa International Middle School who sued a teacher's aide for allegedly sexually assaulting her.

In her suit, the Plaintiff, identified by her initials, claimed that teacher's aide Jeffrey Powell "physically and sexually assault[ed]" her. She also claimed that school officials acted "with negligence, recklessness and indifference" to Powell's alleged sexual misconduct.

The case is captioned K.R. v. Jeffrey Powell, et al, Docket No. CAM-L-4005-10 and K.R.'s attorney was Louis G. Hasner of Cherry Hill. Case documents are on-line here. Also at this link is an Appellate Division decision concerning Powell's appeal of related criminal charges. Also, $35,000 settled the matter only against the school board. A private settlement may have been reached between Powell and the plaintiff.

None of K.R.'s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Cherry Hill board or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that the Cherry Hill board or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay K.R. $35,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.