Public response was negative and strong on social media after a news story was published yesterday about a lawsuit filed against Wilton Public Schools. Today, Wilton’s Board of Education chair, Bruce Likly, issued a statement to the media in response.
The story, published Thursday, April 20 in the Wilton Bulletin, reported on a lawsuit filed in 2015 by a family against the Board of Education and the town, Girl Doe v. Wilton Board of Education, et al. The lawsuit alleges that the girl was sexually assaulted by former Wilton preschool paraprofessional, Erik von Kohorn, and that the school district failed to protect her and investigate properly when the parents notified them of their suspicions.
Von Kohorn was arrested in 2014 on unrelated charges–first-degree possession of child pornography and promoting a minor in an obscene performance. He was sentenced in October 2015 to six years in prison, suspended after two years, after pleading guilty to reduced child pornography possession charges.
In yesterday’s Bulletin article, it was reported that, “The town and Board of Education have asked that [the] suit… be dismissed.” The second line of the article states, “The town, in its filing, alleges the preschool girl’s behavior at times was ‘flirtatious.’”
The article details both the defendants’ memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss as well as the plaintiffs’ response and the concurrent reply from the defendants.
Public outcry was swift and strong once the article was published. On both the Bulletin Facebook page as well as on closed group pages like Wilton 412, commenters expressed anger, disgust and outrage at “victim blaming” and what many faulted as a lack of appropriate response from school officials. They directed their comments at the lawyers, school officials, board of education members, and administrators, and questioned whether enough has been done following von Kohorn’s arrest to keep Wilton school students safe and address ‘systemic problems.’
Typically, in situations involving lawsuits, response to requests for comment usually finds officials declining to make any comment at all, citing ongoing litigation as a reason for being unable to say anything regarding the case. In an unusual move, the BoE chair issued a public statement Friday afternoon that was critical of the Bulletin article, calling it “a dramatic and sensationalized mischaracterization.”
While he doesn’t comment specifically on the aspects of the lawsuit, Likly states that defense lawyers on the case are hired by the Town’s insurance company and that any approach taken by the attorneys is solely their responsibility.
He notes that the legal strategy “centers around a motion for summary judgement based on governmental immunity NOT any claim that the child somehow brought what is alleged upon herself.” Likly calls the suggestion by the Wilton Bulletin “repugnant and misleading.”
He calls the situation “incredibly difficult for all” and says, “the BoE and superintendent take child safety and well-being very seriously.”
GMW reached out to Bulletin editor Jeanette Ross, who wrote the story, for comment to Likly’s statement. She emailed the following: “The story quotes court filings to which we included links.”
Likly’s statement in full reads:
STATEMENT FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION:
Last night’s online article by the Wilton Bulletin is a dramatic and sensationalized mischaracterization of the specifics in a very troubling case given the actual court documents and information that was disclosed during the deposition process (all of which can be found online).
I would like to point out a number of important facts that were not reported:
- Once suits are filed against the Town or Board of Education they are turned over to the Town’s insurance company who retains Counsel.
- The insurance company’s Counsel is solely responsible for legal strategy.
- Counsel’s strategy was solidified as the depositions of related and affected parties were taken.
- Counsel’s strategy for the case, as detailed in the court documents found online, centers around a motion for summary judgement based on governmental immunity NOT any claim that the child somehow brought what is alleged upon herself. For the Wilton Bulletin to suggest otherwise is repugnant and misleading.
- The Board of Education and Superintendent take child safety and well-being very seriously and would never put their position above that of a child.
- The circumstances in this case are not clear and are very complex, making determining the facts very difficult for everyone as seen in the details in the depositions.
At most there may only be two or three people in the world who know the real facts in this case and none of those people are on the Board of Education, employed by the District or weighing in with their opinions on social media.
Our hearts and concerns go out to everyone involved and we are hopeful the legal process will result in the best possible resolution to an incredibly difficult situation for all.