Stockbridge — They said their elementary school counselor did things to them in his basement office like putting them on his lap, breathing heavily in their ears, groping their private parts and more invasive things while school administrators let it happen.
He was also accused of rape, but acquitted of all charges in 2014.
Those were the allegations made against school counselor Scott Muir by five former female students who had attended the Stockbridge Plain School, the Berkshire Hills Regional School District’s elementary school before it built Muddy Brook Elementary.
But one of the women filed a civil suit in federal court last June against the district and, in September 2016, two more women joined the suit, haunting the district with sexual abuse claims from the events of more than a decade ago when they were between the ages of 8 and 10. Two years earlier, a Berkshire Superior Court jury had found Muir not guilty of 19 counts of sexual assault including child rape.
But now the district itself is in the hot seat, accused of negligence, and the School Committee Thursday night (Jan. 5) held an executive session at its regular meeting to discuss the lawsuit.
Superintendent Peter Dillon said he is not yet able to comment on the matter.
The three women, who still live in Berkshire County, are also suing former administrators superintendent Donna Moyer, Stockbridge Plain principal Robert Putnam, and assistant principal Gloria Greaves.
The suit also names Muir, 42, as a defendant and the students are asking for the “maximum recovery available under the law.” The complaint accuses the district of violations of Title IX, due process and sexual harassment. One count of assault and battery is also included in the civil suit.
The women claim the district is liable because it acted with “deliberate indifference” and negligence in preventing the alleged abuse.
The three women each claim similar abuses by Muir and a similar progression of events starting in 2003 and continuing through 2006 in which Muir was repeatedly allowed to have unsupervised contact with the girls at the school – alone or in small groups – in which he would sit them on his lap, grope and touch them on the thighs, stomach or buttocks, and/or breathe into their ears, according to the complaint. One of the women claimed he “put his hands in [redacted] pants and inserted his fingers into her vagina.”
In that last instance, the complaint reads, Muir told her “what he was doing was ‘a secret,’ and he instructed her not to tell anyone.”
But the girls did tell their mothers, the complaint says, and parents repeatedly asked school officials that Muir not have contact with them. Yet after a conversation with Principal Putnam, “No further investigation was done.”
The women allege that there were more meetings and that, in 2004, Putnam reported the allegations to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), in which Putnam told DCF Muir was not to have close or unsupervised contact with the students.
But Muir continued to meet with two of the students “alone in his office…without…notice to….parents…and continued to touch each of them in the manner described…” the complaint says.
One of the women claims Muir continued the behavior with her into the next two school years. Another woman claims that, after Muir continued on as a counselor at the new Muddy Brook Elementary, he would pull her from class and bring her to his office where he would inappropriately touch her.
“[Redacted] told her teacher that she did not want to go down to the office and that she was scared, but she was sent to his office nonetheless,” the complaint says, noting that her parents were not told about this.
Muir was acquitted of the sexual assault charges because of inconsistencies in the students’ stories, the Berkshire Eagle had reported.
Muir, who was also an emergency services coordinator and facilities manager for the town of Stockbridge, sued the town for firing him over the 2012 criminal charges. The discrimination suit was thrown out because of his “at-will” employment status for the town, the Eagle reported.
Scott Muir could not be reached.
The plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Aleo, of Lesser, Newman, Aleo & Nasser in Northampton, did not return calls for comment.