John Doe et al., as Parents and Next Friends on Behalf of Their Minor Daughter Mary Doe
Town of Hopkinton et al No. 136537
March 7, 2017
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS TOWN OF HOPKINTON,
HOPKINTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS WILLIAM LYNCH, JOHN PHELAN, WILLIAM
MEEHAN and JASON WEBSTER'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Kazanjian, Justice of the Superior Court.
minor Mary Doe (" Mary"), by and through her
parents, brought this case against the defendants, alleging
that during the 2009-2010 school year, defendant William S.
Howard (" Howard"), a Hopkinton teacher, sexually
molested Mary, an eleven-year-old student. The matter is
before the court on a motion for summary judgment filed by
defendants Town of Hopkinton and Hopkinton Public Schools
(collectively the " Town"), John Phelan ("
Phelan"), William Lynch (" Lynch"), Jason
Webster (" Webster") and William Meehan ("
Meehan"). After a hearing and careful consideration of
the parties' written submissions, the motion for summary
judgment is ALLOWED in part, and DENIED in
following material facts are taken from the summary judgment
is the former Hopkinton School Superintendent; Lynch is the
former Principal of the Hopkinton Middle School; Webster is
the former Middle School Assistant Principal; and Meehan is a
Hopkinton Middle School guidance counselor.
the 2009-2010 academic year, Mary was eleven years old and a
sixth grade student at Hopkinton Middle School. Howard was
her homeroom and science teacher. Mary alleges that Howard
sexually assaulted and molested her repeatedly at various
locations at the Hopkinton Middle School. The allegations are
that Howard touched Mary's hips, back, shoulders,
buttocks, bra strap, breasts and between her legs, and that
he would put his pelvis near her face while she was sitting
at her desk. It is also alleged that Howard reached down into
Mary's shirt and lifted up a necklace that was hanging
between her breasts. Mary began to noticeably struggle
emotionally in her sixth grade year. Her friends reported
that she became dark and seemed unhappy. By seventh grade,
her friends described her as a " totally different
person." Mary began scratching and cutting herself and
was hospitalized. She reported the abuse by Howard to a
therapist. Her parents learned of the alleged abuse from the
therapist in May 2011.
to Mary's report of sexual assault, there had been a
history of reports to school officials about Howard's
behavior. At least since 2005, students reported witnessing
Howard engaging in inappropriate touching of girls during
class. He had a reputation of being " creepy, " a
" perv" and someone who " hit on girls."
Howard was also observed taking photographs of female
students in places that were deemed inappropriate, such as a
cabin on a field trip where girls were in various stages of
undress and backstage during school plays. It is also alleged
that Howard had students change into bathing suits in his
storage area in back of his classroom for a water
displacement " density" experiment.
describe a number of specific instances where parents or
students complained to the school about Howard's conduct.
Some examples of these instances are described below.
the 2005-2006 academic year, a parent walked in on Howard
with her daughter in a dark room performing an experiment.
The same parent subsequently found her daughter again alone
with Howard after school in a room in the school library. She
saw the defendant and her daughter sitting in two chairs with
their legs interlocked and his hand on her thigh. The parent
spoke to school officials about the incident but she cannot
remember exactly who, although she thought it might have been
Dr. Lyons, who was the assistant principal at the time. She
also recalls speaking to Meehan, who told her that he would
tell Howard that the student would not be staying after
school to work on the project anymore. Howard remembers being
spoken to by Lynch, not Meehan, about the incident and he was
told that his relationship with that student was to end. The
student remembers that a year or two after she was no longer
in Howard's class, she spoke to Meehan, along with one or
two other students, about Howard's inappropriate
behavior. Specifically, she told Meehan that Howard rubbed
her shoulders in class, hugged her and kissed her on the
forehead. She remembers Meehan responding: " Oh,
that's just Mr. Howard. That's what he does. He grew
up in a touchy-feely home, so that's what he does."
2008, one or more female students reported to the school
adjustment counselor, Debby Arienti, that Howard's
touching them made them uncomfortable and that he was "
creepy." The following academic year, Meehan heard that
Howard was making female students uncomfortable by touching
them, although he understood that the touching was not
sexual. Meehan told Howard to be careful not to touch female
students, and Howard agreed to try to stop.
April 2009, a female student told Webster that Howard had
picked up her necklace, which was hanging between her shirt
and jacket, and commented that it was nice, before putting it
back on her chest. The student told Webster that this
incident made her uncomfortable. Webster verbally counseled
Howard and he apologized to the student.
general matter, prior to the 2009-2010 school year, Howard
had been told several times that he should not be
touching female students. Despite these warnings there were
multiple reports that he continued the behavior. Howard
admitted in his deposition that he touched students and
claimed that he was " wired that way."
April 2010, the Town began an investigation into allegations
that Howard engaged in inappropriate conduct with students.
These allegations were brought to the attention of the Town
by the director of religious education at St. John the
Evangelist Church in Hopkinton. The allegations did not
involve Mary but three other students in the church's
religion classes. Howard was placed on administrative leave
during the investigation. Students, parents and school staff
members were interviewed. As a result of the investigation,
the Assistant Superintendent, Mary Colombo, filed reports
regarding several students with the Department of Children
and Family. None of these reports related to Mary, although
Mary was interviewed during the investigation. Mary did not
reveal instances of sexual misconduct during her interview.
She told investigators that Howard was a " fun teacher,
" a " really good teacher" and that he made
" things understandable." She denied that Howard
had asked her to keep any secrets. When asked whether Howard
had done or said anything that was not right, Mary responded
" not really." There were no follow-up questions to
students did report that Howard engaged in inappropriate
conduct, such as rubbing students' shoulders, lower backs
and buttocks. It was reported that he often brushed up
against students and used obscenities in front of them. The
investigation also concluded that Howard had committed other
violations of school policy, including smoking cigarettes on
school grounds, and improperly storing mercury in his
classroom. The school decided that Howard's misconduct
was significant enough to warrant dismissal. He resigned.
Howard was not at the school from the beginning of the
investigation and never returned.
through the 2009-2010 school year, the Town did not train its
school administrators, teachers or staff regarding sexual
harassment of students. The school only had a ...