Dover Area settles with former student sexually abused by teacher
The Dover Area School District and its former music teacher, Matthew Puterbaugh, have 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 on Wednesday, July 11. He represents the woman who, as a child, was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Puterbaugh.
Holt made the joint statement while standing next to attorney Sharon O’Donnell, who represents the school district.
Because Dover Area is a publicly funded district, any legal settlement it makes must be public.
But details of the district’s settlement won’t be made public until after the school board approves it, O’Donnell confirmed.
"The settlement was in everyone's best interests," said attorney Joseph Green Jr., who is representing Puterbaugh.
In court Wednesday, Chief U.S. District Judge Christopher C. Conner noted that he was aware the settlement "is subject to the approval of the school board ... which is anticipated to occur Tuesday evening."
$50K and payments: Holt said his client's settlement with Puterbaugh requires the former music teacher to give her "pretty much everything he has, as far as we know."
He must pay her $50,000 within 90 days, according to Holt.
Puterbaugh also must pay the woman an additional $45,000 in monthly $250 increments for 15 years, Holt said. If Puterbaugh pays in a lump sum, there will be a "present-day value discount," Holt said.
That $45,000 will be split into three accounts — one for each of the woman's children, according to Holt, who said that will be the children's college funds.
That's important for the woman, "because she wants her children to do better than her," Holt said.
"She wants to give them the chance she sort of missed out on," he said.
More schooling: Holt said his client will use some of Puterbaugh's settlement money to continue her own education as well.
After the settlements were reached Wednesday, Holt said he could no longer speak about certain aspects of the civil case.
But on Tuesday, he told The York Dispatch that it wasn't primarily about money — that his client "wanted her day in court."
"She wanted an opportunity to address her abuser," Holt said.
The woman, now 29, was the first witness to take the stand on Monday, July 9, for the start of the trial in Harrisburg’s federal court.
She testified that in fourth grade at Dover Elementary School, she signed up to take flute lessons and that Puterbaugh was her teacher. She was 11 at the time.
He taught her both at the school and in private lessons, she said.
Pregnant at 13: By the time she was 12, Puterbaugh was having sex with her, she said, and he impregnated her when she was 13 years old.
He then arranged for her to have an abortion in Maryland and drove the victim and her mother there, according to the victim’s testimony. Her testimony and that of her mother indicated that Puterbaugh had by that time become the mother’s close friend.
The woman testified that the abuse by Puterbaugh affected “every aspect of my life,” turning her from a good kid to a troubled child who acted out, got into fights and skipped school. She stopped attending Dover Area after 10th grade and for a short time went to a school for children with behavioral issues.
As an adult, she said, “I became an addict, and I lost (custody of) my children.” Also, she said she’s been unable to have successful adult intimate relationships.
The lawsuit: 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 that 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.
Other complaints: In 2000, parents of four Dover Area students complained to the district that Puterbaugh was rubbing up against them and touching them in school. But after an internal investigation, he continued to teach for the district.
Now 51, Puterbaugh remains in federal custody. His release date is August 2027, according to the federal Department of Corrections.
Clinical psychologist Shari Kim of Susquehanna Valley Community Health Services, who examined and diagnosed the woman in 2017, testified Tuesday that the woman has post traumatic stress disorder from being sexually abused as a child.
The woman continues to suffer nightmares and flashbacks but has a good prognosis if she completes therapy, the psychologist testified.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.