Parent Sues School District Over Alleged Assault On Her Child

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A Verona parent has filed a civil lawsuit against the Verona Board Of Education, Superintendent Diane DiGiuseppe, F.N. Brown Elementary School Principal Anthony Lanzo and Maria Graziano, a teacher at the school. The suit alleges that the parent’s child was subject to sexual assault at least 20 times by a fellow student between October 2021 and January 2023, and that the district turned a blind eye to it. The children were in first and second grades at the time.

The district, however, had acted on the case more than a year before the lawsuit was filed. In March 2023, the district and at least one other party filed reports about an alleged assault with New Jersey’s Institutional Abuse Investigation Unit (IAIU). The IAIU, which is part of the Department of Children and Families, investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect in out-of-home settings such as foster homes, detention centers and schools.

The IAIU has elevated investigative powers and, when its investigation is completed, it can refer a case to law enforcement for charges. In April 2023, the district sent a letter to F.N. Brown’s second-grade parents, notifying them that representatives of New Jersey’s Child Protection and Permanency agency, another part of the Department of Children and Families, came to F.N. Brown to ask questions. The investigation apparently concluded in May 2023 but there have been no referrals to the Verona Police Department or Essex County prosecutors. Anyone who believes that they have information on the alleged molestation can still file a report with the Verona Police Department or the state agency.

The law firm representing the parent, McOmber, McOmber and Luber of Red Bank, contends that what happened was a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The parent, minor plaintiff and the alleged perpetrator of the assault are identified by initials and gender in the suit, but MyVeronaNJ is not repeating them here to prevent them from being identified by full names in the wider public. The teacher was threatened on Twitter/X by a Verona resident on Monday when the first news reports came out.

According to the lawsuit, the alleged acts, which occurred when the children were six and seven years old, were a pattern of one child following the other into the hallway bathroom, where touching would take place. While some lower-grade classrooms at F.N. Brown have in-classroom bathrooms, this one did not. (There are cameras in the hallways but they cannot be placed in bathrooms under New Jersey law.) The child who was allegedly molested became withdrawn, the suit says. The family took their child to the Child Mind Institute in New York City, which according to the lawsuit found that the child showed signs of sexual assault and diagnosed the child with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The next step for the Verona School District is to respond to the demands for discovery listed at the end of the suit. Verona will be represented in this by a lawyer for its insurance carrier. Verona Schools are part of an insurance cooperative that includes representatives from several other school districts. The lawsuit could be dismissed, settled, or move forward. It is not known how long this could take.

Several dozen parents attended the Verona Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night. After the budget presentation, the floor was opened for public comments and there were calls for the immediate resignations of DiGiuseppe, Lanzo and Graziano. Speakers were told that the BOE would like not answer any questions immediately, but would respond at its next meeting on May 14.

“The District has and continues to investigate the allegations outlined in the Complaint mentioned in the articles,” Superintendent DiGiuseppe said in an email sent to all school parents on Monday, referring to articles that had come out on NorthJersey.com and NJ.com. “It will respond at the appropriate time through the legal process.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Please refrain from any assumptions or accusations toward this highly respected principal and teacher. The accusations are certainly not believable. It is highly unlikely that this occurred at the school. There is absolutely no evidence to support these claims, and are clearly ridiculous! Be extremely careful of defamation of character, since there will be legal consequences because of it

  2. Chris L, you should also be careful and refrain from making assumptions like you have in your above comments. How dare you say that there is “no evidence to support these claims” and that they are “not believable” and “ridiculous.” Clearly, you have not done your own research or read any of the actual facts in the court documents (because many of the so called facts in this article are factually false)!

  3. Marissa O, these are not assumptions. Yes this story is “not believable” and “ridiculous.”Any intelligent person can see right through all of this, without reading the one sided accusations . In the end the truth will come out, and those accused will be set free! These articles or so called “court documents” have absolutely no factual evidence to support such claims. Beware of the ramifications of defamation toward these highly respected and hard working individuals. They have dedicated their lives toward their profession’s. We certainly are living in a litigious society that will do anything for financial gain. The truth will set them free of all this! God bless 🙏

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