Dover school board won't release terms of settlement with teen sex victim
Dover Area School Board members would not release the amount of an approved settlement between a former district student who was sexually abused by her then-music teacher.
The federal civil rights lawsuit was settled in Harrisburg last week, and the district's attorney, Sharon O’Donnell, told The York Dispatch on Wednesday, July 11, that details of the settlement could be made public following the school board's approval.
But after the settlement was approved at the board's meeting on Tuesday, July 17, members refused to comment.
"I'm sorry, I have to go right now," said board President Nathan Eifert immediately following the meeting, as he and other members went into executive session.
District spokesman Brad Perkins said he did not know any details of the settlement and recommended filing a Right to Know request — which a York Dispatch reporter delivered in person immediately.
Following the executive session, Eifert said of board members, "we have no comment," when asked about the amount of the settlement.
Following the executive session, board members did not return to the administrative center where the meeting was held, instead filing out the back door.
Eifert directed questions to the district's solicitor, Benjamin Pratt, who said board members were bound by law not to release any information.
"No, we cannot," he said when asked if he could release the amount of the settlement. "Under the terms of the agreement, we cannot make any comment on the agreement."
According to Pratt, the judge specified in the agreement that "it is to be confidential and only to be released under the laws" — which would be the RTK law, he clarified.
"We'll abide by the law and provide that under the law," he said.
Approval of the settlement: During the board meeting Tuesday, Eifert made a motion to approve all items under the consent agenda — the last of which was the insurance settlement.
"At this time, I'd just like to announce that the board of directors is acting on this agreement pursuant to the policies of our insurance company," he said of the agenda item.
"The board of directors has no further comment in regards to this matter," he added.
The motion passed 8-0, with one board member, Amy Brinton, absent.
Background: The Dover Area School District and its former music teacher, Matthew Puterbaugh, settled a federal civil-rights lawsuit with a former student whom Puterbaugh sexually abused.
“The case has been settled to the mutual satisfaction of all parties,” plaintiff’s attorney Farley Holt said Wednesday, July 11. He represents the woman who, as a child, was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Puterbaugh.
The woman sued Puterbaugh for sexually abusing her and sued the school district for allegedly failing to protect her from that abuse, which she maintains violated her federal civil rights.
The woman testified she told district employees about the abuse in 2002 and again in 2004 but that she was convinced not to pursue her accusations because Puterbaugh was a “good teacher” and it would “ruin his career,” her lawsuit states.
In June 2015, Puterbaugh pleaded guilty in York County Court to statutory sexual assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse for having sex with the girl. Both charges are felonies.
He was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison, to run concurrently with the 15-year federal prison sentence he was already serving for possessing thousands of images of child pornography.
He was determined to be a sexually violent predator, court records state.