Puterbaugh victim sues Dover schools, alleges mishandling of abuse reports


The ex-student who former Dover Area School District music teacher Matthew Puterbaugh has pleaded guilty to molesting has filed a federal lawsuit against him and the district, alleging that the district ignored and mishandled reports she made more than 10 years ago that Puterbaugh was sexually abusing her.

Then-Superintendent Richard Nilsen and the Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12, which, among other things, is intended to provide some extra support to students, are also defendants in the suit, which was filed Monday.

According to the lawsuit, the girl, who remains anonymous in the suit, reported the abuse originally in 2001 when she was 11 years old and Puterbaugh was her music teacher. He began inappropriately touching her, and then by the time she was 12, he was having sex with her, according to the lawsuit. During this time, the girl reported this to her teachers, who passed the complaint along proper channels, the lawsuit says.

But, the suit alleges, administrators stopped it from going any further — they persuaded the girl to recant her report, telling her Puterbaugh was a "good teacher" and that "these allegations will ruin his career."

A few years later, at age 15, the lawsuit says, the plaintiff made another report to the district that Puterbaugh was abusing her.

By that point, he had impregnated her, and she had gone to Maryland to get an abortion, according to the lawsuit.

She "came under duress by Puterbaugh and other school staff, to 'recant her report of abuse,'" the suit reads. The girl went back to the teacher she'd originally reported the abuse to and told the teacher she "would 'lie and say it didn't happen,'" according to the lawsuit.

At that point, the district terminated its investigations, the suit alleges.

"As a consequence of the failure by the district, its schools and the Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 ... Puterbaugh was able to continue his course of conduct of and persist in his abuse of Plaintiff and other female students for years," the suit alleges.

The plaintiff says she attempted suicide four times between ages 13 and 18, and has undergone mental health treatment because of the abuse, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed Monday seeks monetary damages against all the defendants and punitive damages against Puterbaugh.

When reached by phone Wednesday evening, current district Superintendent Ken Cherry declined to comment on the matter. A woman who answered the phone at Nilsen's home told The York Dispatch "he's not interested, thank you," before hanging up.

Puterbaugh: Puterbaugh, 48, formerly of Conewago Road in Dover Township, has been sentenced to serve 15 years in federal prison for having hundreds of images of child pornography; he's also facing five to 10 years in state prison, served concurrently with the federal sentence, after pleading guilty at the end of June to molesting the plaintiff in this lawsuit.

In February 2014, police filed 661 counts of possession of child pornography against Puterbaugh, which were later amended to seven all-encompassing felony counts.

Puterbaugh, who taught music and was band director at Dover Intermediate School, was initially placed on unpaid leave. In August 2014, the school board voted unanimously to fire him.

— Reach Sean Cotter at