Lawsuit: NJ Union Board of Ed and Superintendent Ignored Sexual Misconduct Claims

Image of the Cumberland County Courthouse in Bridgeton, New Jersey

A Burnet gym teacher recently hit the Township of Union Board of Education, Superintendent Gregory Tatum, and A Burnet Middle School custodian with a lawsuit over allegations of sexual assault and negligence.

A lawsuit was recently filed against the Township of Union Board of Education, Superintendent Gregory Tatum, and A Burnet Middle School custodian over allegations that a Burnet Middle School gym teacher endured sexual assault and battery, “negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” The suit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. 

Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

According to the suit, the plaintiff argues that Tatum, the Board of Education, and others knew the school custodian was a known predator. The custodian, who had been employed by the district for more than 20 years, allegedly “touched and sexually assaulted” the plaintiff on three occasions. The first incident took place in September 2019 when the plaintiff “was groped between the legs” by the custodian, according to the complaint. The second incident happened in November 2019 “when the custodian pounced on top of her (the plaintiff) and pressed himself between her legs.” After that incident, the plaintiff told other employees about what happened. In response, the employees simply “acknowledged that the custodian will never learn his lesson.”

During the third incident, which happened in December 2019, the custodian “forced himself on top of the plaintiff, pressing himself between her legs…attempted to kiss the plaintiff, who screamed and clenched her teeth shut. The custodian proceeded to lick the plaintiff’s cheek before leaving the office,” the suit claims.

One of the most troubling things about the plaintiff’s experience, though, is that the custodian had a known history of “inappropriate sexual contact and/or behavior with students.” The suit notes one allegation from when the custodian worked at Central Five Middle School while Tatum was principal, claiming the custodian “engaged in inappropriate behavior with a student in the basement of the school.” The suit states, “Tatum and other school officials convinced the parents not to notify law enforcement and press charges.” Instead of taking appropriate actions against the custodian, the district simply transferred him to Burnet.

The suit further states the Township of Union Public School District and Tatum “were aware of the custodian’s pervasive and extensive history of sexual victimization of students and staff, but did nothing, effectively placing the custodian in a position to continue preying on staff and students alike.” The defendants did so despite having received “numerous complaints from female employees and students regarding inappropriate sexual contact and/or behavior by the custodian.”

Since the suit was filed, Tatum has resigned as superintendent, effective January 1, 2021. It’s worth noting that the district is currently facing off against 25 different lawsuits, according to Manuel Vieira, the school business administrator.


Lawsuit Claims Union Board of Ed and Superintendent Ignored Claims of Sexual Misconduct by Custodian

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