CLOSE

Here's the latest for Thursday, September, 7th: Hurricane Irma kills at least 8, injures 23 in Caribbean islands; Residents of Miami area under mandatory evacuation orders; Satellite images show Irma's ferocity; British Prince George heads to school. AP

LINKEDIN 4 COMMENTMORE

CAMDEN - A Buena Regional High School gym teacher had sex with a student twice in a vehicle parked outside a bar, then later offered her money and marijuana after instructing the teen not to tell police about their relationship, a lawsuit alleges.

That's one of several detailed accusations in the suit filed this week in U.S. District Court in Camden on behalf of Suzann Anderson and her 17-year-old daughter, identified only as M.D., that alleges widespread negligence by teacher William Jacobs, the Buena Regional Board of Education and several district employees. The suit alleges the defendants “failed to take steps … and follow generally accepted measures to implement procedures to eliminate the danger of sexual abuse by teachers against students." 

Jacobs, 33, of Folsom, pleaded guilty earlier this year to criminal charges of official misconduct and endangering the welfare of a child. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Friday in Atlantic County Superior Court. 

According to the suit, the student met Jacobs while a freshman at Buena Regional High School and he later became her physical education teacher in September 2016, the start of her junior year. That year, M.D. served as a wrestling assistant trainer while Jacobs was an assistant wrestling coach, the suit claims. 

More: City imposing one-day closure of Vineland liquor store
More: Vineland woman fired on maternity leave wins $60K settlement
More: Vineland Historical Society wants Landis sculpture back

The suit says Jacobs sent sexually inappropriate messages to students via Twitter; allowed female students to leave school grounds for food; and allowed female students not to change for gym class while still giving them passing grades. 

"This manner of teaching was intended to groom impressionable female students to trust and confide in him as one of their peers," the lawsuit says. 

During M.D.’s junior year, the suit says, Jacobs started following her on Twitter and began using the social media platform to send direct messages to her. 

While they were exchanging direct messages in October 2016, according to the lawsuit, Jacobs asked M.D. to meet him in the parking lot of a bar on Black Horse Pike in Williamstown where he was drinking.

M.D. went there and entered Jacobs’ vehicle, where he kissed her before he placed the teen’s hand on his genitals and engaged in oral sex, the suit alleges. Jacobs then kissed the girl “and the two parted ways," the lawsuit states. 

Jacobs’ misconduct carried over to school grounds, according the lawsuit, which alleges the following instances: 

  • In November 2016, M.D. approached Jacobs and requested to take a photo of the wrestling schedule. Jacobs said yes and followed M.D. into the wrestling room, where he tried to kiss her. The teen "pushed him back" and said she was sick. Another teacher saw M.D. leave the wrestling room and Jacobs exit through the back door.
  • On another occasion, Jacobs lifted M.D. in the air to show her a picture high on the wall. When Jacobs brought her to the ground, he did so in a way that caused her buttocks to rub against his genitals in the presence of other students. 
  • In the final instance, Jacobs pulled down his pants and requested oral sex from M.D., but she did not comply.

The lawsuit also alleges several interactions outside of school:

  • The student and Jacobs arranged via Twitter to meet a second time at the Williamstown bar, where they had oral sex in a vehicle on Nov. 21.
  • On Dec. 24, Jacobs went to M.D.'s part-time job and "attempted to kiss her several times" in her car during her lunch break, but she declined. Instead, the two just talked. 
  • Jacobs then asked M.D. to meet him at a Route 54 bar in Buena, but she declined. 

In February 2017, a BRHS graduate informed New Jersey State Police that a teacher was having a sexual relationship with a minor, according to the lawsuit. M.D. was interviewed by police that day and denied any relationship with Jacobs, fearing she might get him in trouble, the suit says. 

On Feb. 7, police informed Principal Moses White about the investigation involving Jacobs and M.D., according to the suit, which says White allowed Jacobs to continue his duties as a gym teacher and assistant wrestling coach. White gave Jacobs "unfettered access” to M.D. and he “continued to serve as her teacher," it alleges.

M.D. returned to the police station on Feb. 8 and changed her story, the lawsuit says. She told investigators she and Jacobs had an intimate relationship and met several times to have sex, according to the lawsuit.

On Feb. 10, police asked M.D. about a private meeting she had with Jacobs in a classroom at the school the previous day, the suit says. The student told police Jacobs told her to "keep denying it, keep denying it" before offering her money and marijuana, according to the lawsuit. 

Jacobs was suspended without pay on Feb. 10 and left the state a day later for a rehabilitation facility in Florida, the lawsuit states. 

After that, M.D. went to Buena Regional High School history teacher Michael Loiseau to ask if Jacobs was arrested, according to the lawsuit. Loiseau, a close friend of Jacobs’, told her he was only suspended and Loiseau instructed her to “deny, deny, deny,” the suit alleges. 

The suit also says the defendants “punished” M.D. for Jacobs’ misconduct “by stripping her of her honor society title.” The title eventually was restored, but M.D. “was subjected to so much harassment that she was forced to leave the school and was further forced to be home-schooled for the duration of the academic year,” the suit alleges.

M.D. will continue to be home schooled through December because Buena Regional High School "cannot protect her from other students," the suit alleges. She is scheduled to graduate in December but isn’t permitted to attend her senior prom, go on the senior class trip or walk at graduation, according to the suit. 

In addition to Jacobs and the school board, the lawsuit names as defendants: Buena Regional High School; Loiseau; school Principal Moses White; school Vice Principal Jared Toscano; school district Business Administrator Pasquale Yacovelli; and former superintendent John DeStefano.

School board solicitor Frank DiDomenico said Wednesday he had not yet seen the lawsuit and declined to comment. White and Yacovelli declined to comment. The other defendants and interim superintendent Mary Lou DeFrancisco could not be reached for comment.

M.D. and Anderson seek compensatory damages and punitive damages. Their attorney, Paul R. Melletz, declined to comment.

Anthony V. Coppola; (856) 563-5258; acoppola@gannettnj.com

LINKEDIN 4 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://vineland.dj/2eOtqT9