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Ex-principal denies sexual harassment claims by former student

By Stephen Betts | Feb 07, 2020

Portland — A former principal at Medomak Valley High School is denying claims that he sexually harassed a former student.

The attorney for Andrew Cavanaugh filed a response Feb. 7 to the lawsuit filed Dec. 27 by the former student.

In the response, filed in the U.S. District Court in Portland, Cavanaugh's attorney Douglas Louison of Boston, Mass. denies each allegation.

The woman claims she has been diagnosed with adjustment disorder, social anxiety, and worsened depression as a direct result of the emotionally traumatic relationship with Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh's attorney offered defenses that are standard in civil lawsuits, including contending that any alleged injuries suffered by the woman were caused by her own conduct.

He also argues that the statutes of limitations have expired for her to file a lawsuit, and that she failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

The defense also argues that Cavanaugh acted objectively reasonable under the circumstances and was immune from liability.

The attorney is seeking a jury trial for his client.

The lawsuit filed by the woman also names MSAD 40/RSU 40 and high school social worker Chuck Nguyen as defendants. They are named because they failed to stop the conduct by Cavanaugh, according to the lawsuit.

The school district and Nguyen have not yet responded to the lawsuit. The court gave RSU 40 and the social worker until March 16 to file responses.

The former student, now 19, claims that Cavanaugh began paying her special attention when she was 16 years old and a junior at the high school in Waldoboro.

Cavanaugh resigned as principal in 2017 after police began an investigation a month earlier into whether any crime had occurred as part of his relationship with a student. No charges were ever filed.

Waldoboro Police began the investigation after a third-party reported the relationship and then referred the matter to the Knox County Sheriff's Office. Cavanaugh was initially placed on administrative leave.

The woman -- who is represented by attorneys Eric LeBlanc of Cambridge, Mass. and Rachel Deschuytner of Portland -- said that Cavanaugh began commenting on her looks and clothing in front of other students and staff.

He would then buy her personal hygiene products and give them to her in front of students and staff.

The woman claims in the lawsuit that she spoke to Nguyen and asked if this was normal behavior and he told her that Cavanaugh's actions were appropriate.

She went back again to the social worker when Cavanaugh offered to take her to a doctor's appointment for her required check-up to participate in cheerleading.

The lawsuit claims that the social worker assured her that Cavanaugh was simply trying to be a "father figure" to her.

When Cavanaugh suggested she consider birth control, the woman said she again raised her concern to the social worker who said there was nothing inappropriate in the comment, according to her lawsuit.

The woman said Cavanaugh then began texting her on a frequent basis -- 5,000 texts between April and November 2017. The texts would be throughout the school day and into the early morning hours.

Comments often-times were sexually suggested, according to the lawsuit.

"Defendant Cavanaugh’s actions were extreme, outrageous, beyond the bounds of decency and utterly intolerable in a civilized society," the lawsuit states.

At one point, he offered her a scholarship to an Outward Bound program through the school.

Cavanaugh also informed the woman that he had purchased a car for her in 2017.

Cavanaugh was the principal at Medomak Valley since 2015. He had worked at the school since at least 2004 when he was an economics and government teacher.

SAD 40 consists of Waldoboro, Warren, Union, Washington, and Friendship.

The newspaper has chosen not to identify the woman.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Feb 08, 2020 12:04

Sad comment regarding a teacher who is supposed to be protecting his students.

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