CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- The Chappaqua Central School District is placing blame for injuries on three students involved in a sex-abuse lawsuit against it and former Horace Greeley High School drama teacher Christopher Schraufnagel.
In the district's court filing, which was submitted on July 1 to the state Supreme Court, the district's legal counsel contends that the students are responsible for their alleged damages, claiming that if the accusations are true, "said injuries and damages were caused or contributed to by reason of the carelessness, recklessness, negligence and/or assumption of the risk, both implied and expressed, of the plaintiffs," adding that, "and if the plaintiffs recover against this answering defendant, the amount of damages shall be diminished in proportion to the culpable conduct attributable to the plaintiffs."
A copy of the school district's reply can be read here.
The district's answer, which was in response to the May filing on the lawsuit, also faults Schraufnagel individually.
Schraufnagel, who worked in the district for 12 years before resigning last September, currently faces criminal sex-abuse charges and is named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit.
The former teacher is accused of fondling students, and providing drugs and alcohol to pupils. He is also alleged to have orchestrated events with students such as "Sick Secret Santa," where, it is claimed, human feces were placed in a cup, pubic hairs were baked into cakes and sperm was distributed in a bottle.
A fourth alleged victim is being sought as a new plaintiff, although a judge will need to sign off on the request.
No attorney on Schraufnagel's behalf has responded to the civil case.
Chappaqua school board President Alyson Gardner declined to comment on the district's filing.
"We do not comment on pending litigation," she wrote in an email.
David Engelsher, the attorney for the four students, called the district's blaming of his clients "standard language in nearly every answer" that is served in a personal-injury case. However, he criticized the district for taking such a route, citing the fact that the students were under the age of consent during the timeline of the accusations.
"How can you blame a child who is too young to give consent?"
Engelsher suggested that, while the district is "trying to sever their ties" with Schraufnagel, he argued that it cannot remove itself from liability because his alleged conduct took place on school grounds.
The plaintiffs' lawyer also said that the school district, in its new actions, has "stirred the anger of the community."
Engelsher emphasized several accusations this past week in a new filing on behalf of his fourth client. The latest filing alleges that Schraufnagel asked the fourth plaintiff, a male student, to photograph and expose his genitals; request that the student receive oral sex from him; and succeeding in groping the fourth client.
Schraufnagel is also accused on being intoxicated while on his job.
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