Mashpee School District Faces Complaint Stemming From 2009 Indecent Assault Case
By: Elsa H. Partan
The family of a victim of a 2009 indecent assault case involving a school employee is seeking monetary damages from the Mashpee School District. A hearing in the matter is set for mid-September.
At the same time, the school committee has set aside at least $200,000 in preparation for an unnamed legal expense, according to a town official.
Former paraprofessional and coach Stephen J. Weixler pleaded guilty to charges of indecent assault on a person 14 or older in December 2009. Mr. Weixler, a 2004 graduate of Mashpee High School, was accused of having oral sex with a 14-year-old Mashpee girl in September 2008 when the two were parked in a vehicle at South Cape Beach. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison but was released after six months in May 2010 with a two-year suspended sentence, according to court documents.
The Enterprise does not identify underage victims of crimes.
In April 2010, the victim’s family brought a case to the state Bureau for Special Education Appeals in Malden, according to two employees of the state agency. A hearing officer declined to discuss specifics of the case.
The bureau, according to its website, “conducts mediations, advisory opinions and hearings to resolve disputes among parents, school districts, private schools and state agencies concerning eligibility, evaluation, placement, individualized education programs (IEPs), special education services and procedural protections for students with disabilities.”
In an April 2011 document, a hearing officer at the bureau denied a motion by the Mashpee School District to dismiss the charges filed by the victim’s family.
The ruling does not contain the name of the school district or the name of the victim but contains identical case dates confirmed by bureau employees, as well as a time line and facts known from the criminal reports of the Weixler matter.
The ruling states that the victim seeks monetary damages for the victim’s family “for the alleged ‘rape, hostile educational environment, deliberate indifference, indecent assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, loss of consortium, and negligence’ by individual, named defendants and the Town...”
According to the document, the victim alleges that the school district was not responsive to her educational and emotional needs in the six months between when the rape occurred and when the crime was brought to light. The victim does not accuse the school of failing to take proper action once the rape allegations were known. Mr. Weixler, who worked with special education students at Mashpee Middle School and coached junior varsity in the school system, was fired from both jobs soon after his arraignment, in March of 2009.
The educational aspects of the case have been “successfully resolved,” but the question of monetary damages is still outstanding, according to the ruling. The April ruling was the second denial of a school district motion to dismiss the monetary damages claim.
The case is scheduled to go before a hearing officer beginning on September 12, according to the two agency employees.
Reached by telephone this week, the victim’s mother said the issue has been extraordinarily difficult for the family and she did not want to comment.
Elizabeth K. Adams of Hartford, Connecticut, an attorney for the victim, declined to acknowledge the existence of the case and had no comment about whether the two sides are close to a settlement or the amount of money or other actions the victim is seeking from the school district.
Superintendent Ann M. Bradshaw also had no comment when asked about the case after the school committee meeting on August 24. Kathy G. Stanley, chairman of the school committee, said yesterday that she could not comment on the matter.
The school committee set aside $200,000 in special education expenses earlier this year as a way to free up money for a possible legal expense, according to Town Manager Joyce M. Mason.
Selectman Michael R. Richardson said that Ms. Stanley and school committee member Jose Franco told him that there would likely be a large expense stemming from a lawsuit that would require the money.
The conversation occurred in an informal meeting with Mr. Richardson, Selectman Wayne E. Taylor, and the two school committee members two weeks ago. It resulted in the Mashpee Board of Selectmen tentatively agreeing last week to remove an article from the October Town Meeting warrant that would have pull $200,000 from the school department budget to be used for public safety positions and to bolster the town general fund. According to Ms. Mason, if the money is not used for the legal expense, it must be returned to the general fund, per the informal agreement.
William L. MacKinnon, a senior claims representative at Maya Property And Casualty Group Inc. in Woburn, said that in general, the insurance company covers Mashpee municipal workers for claims connected with the workers’ official duties. The venue that a plaintiff selects in seeking damages has a bearing on whether coverage applies, he said, although he was unable to say whether insurance coverage would apply in this case.
“Maya never comments on pending claims or pending litigation,” he said.
Correction: This article and headline have been changed to reflect the correct charges to which Mr. Weixler pled guilty. He was convicted of indecent assault and battery against a person 14 years or older.