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Three dismissed in school sexual assault case

Published 6:00 pm, Friday, April 11, 2014
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Three people were dismissed in the case against the Darien Board of Education and a group of educators.

Nicole Ruospo, Marc Marin and Carleen Wood were dismissed on April 4, according to court documents.

The case against the Board of Education charges that a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome was sexually assaulted by former paraprofessional Zachary Hasak at Tokeneke Elementary School in October 2009.

In October 2011, the student and his parents, referred to as John Doe and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Doe, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Darien Board of Education, the Town of Darien and Hasak, as well as Robin Pavia, Melissa Bellino, former superintendent Donald Fiftal, former superintendent Stephen Falcone, Mary Lee Fisher, Ruospo, Marin, Assistant Director of Special Education Wood, and John Woodring, all of whom were employees of the Darien Public Schools during the time of the alleged incident.

Ruospo, Marin and Wood were dismissed because there was not enough sufficient evidence to support the plaintiff's claims, according to Catherine Nietzel, an attorney representing all the defendants except Hasak.

According to the lawsuit, Hasak, Pavia, Bellino, Fiftal, Falcone, Fisher, Ruospo, Marin, Wood and Woodring were involved in the days following the incident or were aware of the alleged abuse toward the student a year later at Middlesex Middle School.

Fisher, who died in 2013, is no longer named in the case.

On March 19, 2014, the defendants filed a motion for a mental examination of Doe.

The parents claim that their son, who is no longer in the Darien school system, "has suffered permanent and emotional harm, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and will require treatment and enhanced supervision for the rest of his life."

The lawsuit states that "while in the classroom, alone with the student, defendant Hasak exposed himself to the student, made sexual advances toward the student and encouraged the student to engage in sexual activity with him."

The defendants deny the allegation.

According to the lawsuit, the student "refused to engage in sexual activity" with Hasak, whom the parents claim threatened to hurt him if he told anyone about the alleged advances, which the defense denies in its response filed March 20, 2013.

The parents claim Hasak was not supposed to be alone with their son for any length of time "without direct supervision from a certified teacher or special education teacher."

When their son was a student at Middlesex Middle School the following year, the parents claim that Ruospo, his special education teacher, abused him by "shoving him, by kicking his feet out from under him, by knocking him to the floor and preventing him from getting up by kicking his feet out from under his when he tried to stand up and by secluding him," some of which, the parents claim, Marin, the assistant principal, saw.

Neitzel said there was not enough evidence to provide a "good-faith basis" to continue with the case against Ruospo, Marin and Wood.

The defendants are being sued for liability of the board for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act; violation of Title IX by the board; violation of due process; violation of procedural due process; assault and battery and reckless and wanton conduct against Hasak; negligence; and statutory liability.

The parents are seeking relief for compensatory and punitive damages and changes to Department of Children and Families policies.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews