Things are looking a lot worse for a former New Jersey high school teacher who is still on trial for alleged sexual misconduct with six teenage boys, as she now faces three lawsuits on top of her criminal charges.
Nicole Dufault, 38, was arrested back in July 2014 after she was accused of having inappropriate, sexual relationships with at least six male students. As she still awaits trial, three lawsuits have been filed against both her and her former school district within the past 15 months, and they seek “damages for Dufault’s alleged actions and claims she coerced the students into performing oral sex, pressured them due to her authority as a teacher and caused emotional distress and psychological injury.” They also claim the school district failed to supervise areas of the school during a 2013 summer program in which many of the alleged incidents occurred.
The first lawsuit, filed in September of 2016 by the parents of two alleged victims, seeks $1 million in damages and court and legal fees, claiming both students were “intellectually disabled” with “social communication difficulties” and “were vulnerable to sexual harassment” after Dufault allegedly had both sex and oral sex with them.
A third student filed another lawsuit that same month accusing the former teacher of sexual abuse beginning when he was a freshman at her school in 2014. According to this alleged victim, Dufault would invite students to “hang out” in her classroom and then “spoke with them about lewd and sexual actions, brushed up again[st] their bodies and touched intimate and personal parts of their bodies in front of other students in the social group.” The lawsuit also alleges that the sexual relations between the teacher and students were filmed and that the school is at fault for failing to supervise her classroom.
A final lawsuit was filed in October of 2017, so far listing no damages sought but accusing Dufault of sexually abusing another male student, who participated in a summer program in 2013 during which sexual acts between him and the teacher occurred in her car in the school parking lot and in other locations around the school.
Dufault’s attorney has attempted to argue that she is a victim herself, as she suffers from “frontal lobe syndrome” and that an “particularly overly aggressive group of students” interacted with “a teacher who suffered from brain damage.” He also agreed that the school was not supervised adequately.
“You had a program that took place in an isolated part of the school where there was nobody there to control the situation, then you couple that with the fact that the school never screened her post-brain surgery,” Tim Smith, Dufault’s attorney, said. “She also had a home front situation that was troubled with her husband having been arrested and she was taking care of the kids herself. You had a whirlwind of events that led to this victimization of her.”
In response to the lawsuits, a spokesperson of the school district said in a statement:
The allegations are deeply disturbing. The nature of the charges are the most difficult that schools, parents and children would ever have to discuss together. By law, administrators and Board of Education members are not permitted to publicly discuss personnel or individual student matters, ongoing litigation, or other issues requiring confidentiality. However, we can affirm we believe deeply in our mission to provide our students with a safe and healthy learning environment. We are hopeful that the process will bring closure to this painful chapter in our community’s history.