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.