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BELFAST, Maine — A former Medomak Valley High School principal is denying claims from a former student who alleges he made lewd comments and sent sexually suggestive texts to her while she was at the school.
Andrew Cavanaugh, who resigned from his position at MVHS in December 2017, is requesting a jury trial.
In December, Cavanugh was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed on on behalf of the now 19-year-old woman in federal court in Portland. Chuck Nguyen, a social worker at the high school, and MSAD/RSU 40 also were named as defendants.
In a response filed Friday in federal court, Cavanaugh’s attorney, Douglas I. Louison, of Boston, said that any alleged damages or injuries suffered by the former student were caused by her own conduct and that the case should be dismissed because the statute of limitations has expired. Additionally, he said that Cavanaugh “acted objectively reasonably” under the circumstances and is immune from liability.
Shortly before Cavanaugh’s resignation, police began an investigation into whether there was an inappropriate relationship between him, the student and a staff member at the high school. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office found that no crime occurred.
But in her lawsuit, the former student alleges that Cavanaugh harassed her on nearly a daily basis. When she took her concerns to Nguyen, she alleges that he assured her that Cavanaugh’s actions were not inappropriate and that he was trying to be a “father figure.” Social workers are required to report allegations of abuse to authorities.
The woman has since been diagnosed with adjustment disorder, social anxiety and worsened depression “as a direct result of the emotionally traumatic relationship with [Cavanaugh],” according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, when the girl was 16 and a junior at MVHS, Cavanaugh began to “pay special attention” to her, allegedly making sexually based comments about her looks and clothing in front of others. Cavanaugh also purchased personal hygiene products for the student and gave them to her in front of teachers and students, the lawsuit claims.
The woman told Nguyen about these “gifts” and asked if this was normal behavior. Nguyen said Cavanaugh was being “nice” to her.
Between April 2017 and November 2017, Cavanaugh and the student exchanged about 5,000 text messages, according to the lawsuit.
Messages from Cavanaugh allegedly inquired about the woman’s relationship status and sexual activity, according to the lawsuit. Many of the messages also included sexual innuendos and some solicited photos of the woman.
In reference to prom dresses, on May 18, 2017, Cavanaugh allegedly sent a text stating, “It would be [hard] for you to not look sexy, but I get the point. Send me a picture and I will tell you straight up how you look.”
In an Oct. 6, 2017 text, Cavanaugh said, “I might have to give you a spanking.” Three days later, in another text, Cavanugh said, “I bet if I slapped you a couple times you would be mine forever!”
When the student would not respond to the messages, Cavanaugh would sometimes ask her to stop by his office, or he would repeatedly text her asking why she was being “quiet,” according to the lawsuit.
In May 2017, according to the lawsuit, Cavanaugh asked the student to live with him during her senior year — an invitation he brought up multiple times. He would also offer the girl gifts, whether it be money that he gave to her directly or left in the office for her, or offering her a scholarship to the program Outward Bound, according to the lawsuit.
In July 2017, Cavanaugh told the woman that he bought a car for her and that “she could work for him to pay it off,” according to the lawsuit. “Don’t worry cupcake, I won’t sell you into white slavery,” Cavanaugh allegedly said in a July 5, 2017, text message.
After a third-party notified police of the inappropriate relationship between Cavanaugh and the girl, the school district put him on administrative leave in the fall of 2017, before he ultimately resigned in December. Nguyen and MSAD 40 have not yet responded to the lawsuit. The court gave the social worker and the school district until March 16 to respond, according to the Village Soup.
Through the lawsuit, the woman is asking for unspecified damages and the coverage of her legal costs. She is being represented by attorneys Eric R. LeBlanc and Rachel J. Deschuytner.