A former Cape Henlopen High School student and her mother are suing school officials and a former staff member, claiming he molested the student and the school failed to take action.
In 2015, defendant Derek Dutton, the Lewes school’s theater technical director, allegedly put his hand down the jeans of then-17-year-old Theresa Collins while she was rehearsing for a school production.
According to the complaint filed by Collins, her mother, Virginia Collins, and attorney Raeann Warner of Jacobs & Crumplar, Dutton asked another female student about her sex life.
Both girls filed separate reports to the school, then met with defendant Nikki Miller, who was the assistant principal at the time, to report the incidents.
Collins’ parents also met with defendant Brian Donahue, who was the principal at the time. According to the court document, Donahue assured the Collins family the incident was reported to defendant Robert Fulton, the school district’s superintendent.
The lawsuit alleges Dutton was allowed to continue to work at the school — as late as 2017 when Collins’ sister dropped out of the theater program because she felt uncomfortable that Dutton was still involved.
Despite the suit’s claim, a school district spokeswoman said that Dutton has not been employed with the district since 2015.
According to the court document, Delaware State Police confirmed the defendants did not relay reports of sexual abuse by Dutton to the department, as required by state law.
“As a result of sexual harassment and assault, Theresa Collins and (her sister) were deprived of access to the educational opportunities and benefits at Cape Henlopen School District and suffered physical and emotional pain and suffering, distress, humiliation, anxiety, and other personal injuries,” the complaint states.
“This is a foreseeable harm of the board and its agents, including defendants Fulton, Miller, and Donahue’s, failure to take any meaningful action in response to the complaint, or to take any corrective action.”
Prior to the alleged sexual assault, the lawsuit claims Dutton made other inappropriate remarks to a student and an intern who reported those incidents to officials. The school’s theater director also reported Dutton’s hostile behavior, which included making a Jewish slur.
Among other counts, the defendants are accused of gross negligence, fraud, infliction of emotional distress and assault. The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
In an email, a school district spokeswoman noted the district’s practice “not to comment on pending litigation” and efforts to reach Dutton were unsuccessful.