Student claims sexual abuse at the hands of teacher
A former Westwood High School student is suing his former teacher Jamie Ashworth, charging she sexually abused him and gave him drugs while he was a student at the school. The suit names the former principal Emily Parks and the Westwood School Committee for failing to protect him from the teacher’s advances.
He was weak, and she was strong, said Carmen Durso, the attorney for the plaintiff, identified as “John Doe” in a civil complaint filed Friday, May 2 in Middlesex Superior Court. According to Durso, Doe, now 23, is ready to fight back against his alleged abuser. It’s unusual, he said, for a young man to recognize sexual advances from an older woman as abuse.
“It takes great courage for a young man of his age to do this because everything they see in society, in literature, in movies, in books, everything they hear from their peers is not only that is OK, it’s great, it’s terrific that this has happened to you,” Durso said. “Well, we know it’s not great. It’s not terrific. Particularly, when we see a situation like this in which the perpetrator has provided the victim with drugs and had this kind of influence on his life, this is something other than a normal relationship.”
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Westwood Superintendent John Antonucci said the school investigated Ashworth’s interaction with Doe five years ago, and did not find indication of a sexual relationship.
“No evidence to a sexual relationship surfaced until 2011 when the former student was arrested in a different town, two years after he graduated and the teacher no longer worked in Westwood Public Schools,” Antonucci said.
According to the complaint, Ashworth, of Needham, became Doe’s Spanish teacher during his sophomore year. Diagnosed with a painful skin disease, Doe would often use a wheelchair in class. He suffered from myriad physical and mental issues, and had been on a special education plan since kindergarten.
Ashworth allegedly “groomed” Doe, giving him special attention, flattering him, and inflating his grade in Spanish, according to the complaint. During his junior year, she arranged to become his study adviser, according to the complaint, and spent time with him both in and out of class.
Doe frequently couldn’t walk because of his skin condition, and Ashworth allegedly started to give him Oxycodone, Valium and Atavan for his pain. In exchange, she demanded sexual favors, Durso said.
According to Durso, other teachers at the school were aware of the relationship, sometimes mentioning it to the plaintiff.
At one point, Doe’s mother reportedly called Parks, now assistant superintendent, and complained Ashworth was texting him “day and night” and calling him at all hours.
Durso said Doe’s mother showed Parks the messages, which he described as unusual but not overtly sexual. Parks reportedly told Doe’s mother her son was the instigator, and that he should stop calling Ashworth. The complaint alleges Parks took no further action.
“We’ve brought this suit because we think the people in Westwood, responsible people, did not protect John and did not pay attention to what was going on between Ashworth and John,” Durso said. “Something occurred that resulted in Ashworth leaving the high school, but so far we haven’t been able to get the people in Westwood to tell us what that something was.”
Doe was arrested in May 2011 after Ashworth told police he had assaulted her and stolen her oxycodone pills, according to the lawsuit.
Ashworth reportedly resigned in the spring of 2009, leaving before the year’s end.
Leonard Kesten, the school district’s attorney, said Ashworth was suspended in February 2009 for having excessive interactions with Doe.
“She violated the rules,” Kesten said. “Ms. Parks met with her and told her that she was not to have any excessive contact with the students, set clear writing and received information that she had violated those limits, so they acted immediately.”