Lawsuit alleges former Hudson teacher sexually assaulted middle school student

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By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter

Hudson town iconHUDSON – A former JFK Middle School teacher who allegedly sexually assaulted a former student is now facing a civil lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in Norfolk County Superior Court on Oct. 12.

In March, a grand jury charged Caitlin Harding with three counts of aggravated rape of a child with a 10 year difference, rape of a child with force and six counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 relating to alleged sexual assault of a student while she taught at JFK.

“JFK Middle School administration and Hudson Public Schools administration apparently failed to investigate or discipline Defendant Harding’s attention to minor girls at JFK Middle School,” this new civil complaint said.

Lawsuit names teacher, others as defendants

The lawsuit alleges that Harding used her position at the middle school “to gain access to and to interact with the then-minor Plaintiff, a student at JFK Middle School.”

Harding is named in the lawsuit in addition to the Town of Hudson, former Superintendent Kevin Lyons, former JFK Middle School Principal Brian Daniels and current Quinn Middle School Assistant Principal Matthew Gaffny.

The lawsuit also names a “Defendant Six,” which the suit says is an individual or individuals, some unknown to the plaintiff, that had a supervisory responsibility over Harding.

Complaint details teacher’s actions

Harding was hired as a classroom teacher at JFK in 2006 and worked at the school until 2013, the complaint says.

The student attended JFK in sixth and seventh grade according to documents. Harding was the student’s sixth-grade history teacher and homeroom teacher.

The lawsuit alleges that, during that school year, the student stayed after school to help Harding in her classroom and to socialize.

According to the complaint, when the student was about 11 or 12, “…Defendant Harding openly showed affection toward and engaged in physical contact with Plaintiff by, among other things, Defendant Harding putting her hand on Plaintiff’s arm and shoulder, and Defendant Harding hugging Plaintiff.”

In one instance, the complaint said the student was going to leave school early to go on vacation. Harding came into the student’s classroom, interrupting class, to say goodbye and to give them a hug.

Harding allegedly began email conversations with the student between their sixth and seventh grade year. That summer, the student was invited to help Harding paint her classroom according to the complaint.

The next school year, Harding reportedly “encouraged” the student to visit her in her classroom “whenever possible.” The student visited before, during and after class as well as during lunch and after school.

Teacher assaulted student at least 10 times, complaint says

Allegedly, during the 2009-2010 school year, Gaffny and other school staff had a meeting with the student’s parents “… in response to JFK Middle School administration’s concerns about Plaintiff spending so much time in Defendant Harding’s classroom and Defendant Harding’s attentions to Plaintiff.”

After that meeting, the student was assigned to a different teacher in another section of the school, the lawsuit says.

The complaint says that the student’s mother met with Lyons to discuss the concerns.

Harding later began giving the student and another student rides after school as well as texting the student, the complaint says.

The complaint alleges at least 10 instances in which the student was sexually assaulted by Harding when they were about 13 or 14.

The plaintiff suffers from “severe emotional distress” and depression, anxiety, panic attacks and suicidal ideation, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges that the Hudson Public Schools Supervisors “breached their duty of care to properly hire and retain individuals of good reputation and character who would be asked to interact with minor children at JFK Middle School, by hiring Defendant Harding to her position at JFK Middle School.”

Hudson had a duty to train Harding in her interactions with students to prevent her from engaging in inappropriate conduct and violating physical boundaries, it says.

“The sexual abuse of children by adults, including teachers, is a foreseeable result of negligence,” the suit says.

Criminal case proceeds, trial scheduled

Harding was released on her own recognizance following her arraignment on those criminal charges earlier this year. Two of the conditions of her release forbade her from having unsupervised contact with anyone under 18 or being employed or volunteering to work with anyone under 18.

A jury trial in that case had been scheduled for April 19 of next year, as of Oct. 14.

Court documents attached to the case say the victim was in Harding’s class in sixth grade. Harding allegedly began going to the victim’s house and taking the child out alone when they were in seventh grade.

The next summer, “the victim, who was 13 years of age at the time, started spending more time with the defendant.”

Harding allegedly sexually assaulted the victim after taking them out for ice cream. According to the statement, the victim was assaulted several times, including in a Hudson boathouse.

“The victim further described how the defendant would tell her that the victim was hers forever and that she loved her,” the statement said.

Harding’s former wife told police that after she confronted Harding after seeing a text message to the victim “declaring her love for the victim,” Harding admitted to kissing the victim twice, according to court documents.

Those documents say the victim said the relationship ended after the victim’s sister discovered a video of the victim dancing for Harding and told their mother.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hudson Schools Superintendent Marco Rodrigues addressed this civil lawsuit in a statement to the Community Advocate on Oct. 15.