Two former Weedsport Central School District students have filed lawsuits in the past week claiming the district failed to protect them from sexual abuse on school grounds.
The complaints were filed in state Supreme Court in Cayuga County under the state's Child Victims Act look-back provision for civil cases that would otherwise be barred under the statute of limitations. One of the new cases follows an earlier lawsuit filed against the school district that identified the same alleged abuser. The other new case is connected with a former teacher's aide who was arrested and convicted of having sexual contact with students more than 16 years ago.
In a case filed July 29, a plaintiff identified as AB 509 Doe, said the school district was negligent in its handling of issues related to an aide named Mary Schoonmaker, who in 2003 pleaded guilty to rape and sodomy charges. She admitted in court that she had sexual relationships with two teenage boys, and a one-night sexual encounter with another teenager. The victims were 14 and 15, and she was in her mid-20s at the time. She was sentenced to probation with a period of homebound detention in 2003.
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"Prior to the sexual abuse of the plaintiff, defendant Weedsport learned or should have learned that Schoonmaker was not fit to work with children," the complain states, saying the abuse took place in 2002 and 2003.
In a separate case filed Monday by a plaintiff identified as AL 540 Doe, the district is accused of negligence with respect to a former Boy Scout leader who ran the school district's audio-visual club in the late 1970s. The complaint said the alleged abuser, former village of Weedsport Mayor Victor Sine, abused the victim from 1975 to 1980.
Another Child Victims Lawsuit filed earlier this year by a plaintiff named Scott Gregory Coats also identifies Sine, who died in 2018, as a perpetrator of sexual abuse while serving in his roles with the Boy Scouts and AV club. Sine had also been the district's business manager, according to his obituary.
Coats' case initially named the Boy Scouts and the school district as co-defendants. That lawsuit has now been separated into two cases after Boy Scouts of American filed for bankruptcy protection, which shifts civil lawsuits under the purview of federal courts. The complaint against the school district remains in state court.
Signed into law in 2019, the Child Victims Act extended the statute of limitations for civil claims of child sexual abuse until victims turn 55 years old, or until they are 28 years old for felony child sex abuse charges.
The lawsuits filed against Weedsport this week came as the Child Victims Act look-back provision was set to expire in mid-August. However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law on Monday a bill that extended that period for another year.
Weedsport school district officials could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Executive editor Jeremy Boyer can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer.