By: Joseph Cammarata
The first lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) over
sexual abuse by a former teacher has been filed on behalf of one of the
victims. The case involves John Vigna, a former teacher at Cloverly Elementary
School in Silver Spring, Maryland, who had been employed by the school
for over 20 years. Vigna was recently found guilty of child sexual abuse
and sentenced to 48 years in prison.
Although initially charged with 15 counts of sexual abuse involving five
named victims, including one who alleged being touched by Vigna as far
back as 2001, Vigna was found guilty on nine counts of sex abuse of a
minor and sexual offense in the third degree involving four victims.
Vigna came under investigation in 2016 after the teacher of a “body
safety” class noted unusual behavior from an 11-year-old student
and spoke with her about inappropriate touching by Vigna that had been
taking place for over 18 months. Following the investigation, authorities
were able to identify additional victims and present evidence that Vigna
had forced children to sit on his lap, groomed students in order to sexually
assault them, and engaged in other acts of inappropriate contact.
Lawsuit Names Montgomery County Public Schools as Defendant
The lawsuit brought by one of Vigna’s victims, filed on August 10th,
names Montgomery County Public Schools as a defendant. As the complaint
alleges, there may be evidence to support that school officials failed
to notice red flags regarding Vigna. This includes two reported instances
of Vigna being reprimanded after placing fifth-grade children on his lap,
once in 2008 and again in 2013. After an investigation into the 2013 incident,
Vigna was reprimanded and transferred to a third grade class.
Sexual abuse lawsuits that involve abuses in educational settings commonly
name the institution involved, or the school district, as a defendant.
This is because schools have a legal duty to take reasonable measures
in protecting the safety of students. These reasonable measures may include:
- Thorough hiring process / background checks
- Properly following up on complaints regarding teacher misconduct
- Taking appropriate disciplinary action
- Adequately supervising teachers and students
When school officials fail to take proper steps in protecting students,
particularly after they knew of misconduct or complaints, they fail in
upholding their legal obligation. As such, schools and school districts
can, and often are, held liable for the foreseeable improper conduct of
its employees, even if criminal.
Help for Victims
Our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. has represented
many sexual abuse victims, including those who were victimized in institutional
and educational settings where they believed they were safe. Our experience
and insight enable us to support victims and families through difficult
times, and to guide them through the legal pathways of securing justice
and compensation for their damages.
As a firm that represents clients throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington,
DC, we make ourselves readily available to abuse victims who would like
to learn more about their rights and what our award-winning lawyers can
do to guide them through the legal journey ahead. If you have questions
regarding a potential case involving John Vigna, or any other instance
of sexual abuse, please do not hesitate to
contact our firm for a free and confidential consultation.
Our attorneys are also currently investigating cases from victims who may
have been abused by Charles County, MD school aide
Carlos DeAngelo Bell, who was recently arrested for allegedly recording acts of sexual abuse
in Benjamin Stoddert Middle School.