A former student has alerted the Hopewell Valley Regional School District that she intends to prosecute for $10 million, alleging the district did not protect her from a teacher who tried to physically assault her and is still in the classroom today.
The girl accuses Timberland Middle School teacher and athletics coordinator Mark Amantia of making “improper physical advances” to her during the 2016-2017 school year, starting when she was 13.
Her lawyers said the unsuitable touching, including repeatedly massaging her neck and back in full view of other students and staff, culminated in Amantia trying to physically assault her until she stabbed him with a pencil and ran from the classroom.
The notice said the district alerted law enforcement after the girl, identified only as Student S. It is disclosed some of the inappropriate touchings to her mother and a high school official in 2018.
The district said Tuesday the state’s Division of Child Protection & Permanency and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office investigated her claims and found “no evidence of wrongdoing.”
But the law firm representing her, John Rue & Associates, said in a press statement that the lack of criminal charges is not an exoneration of the English teacher.
“Prosecutors stated directly to the family that they had declined to bring criminal charges only because there were no other witnesses to the alleged sexual assault, and because criminal charges have to be supported by proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” the firm said.
Amantia did not return an email Tuesday and attempts to reach him by phone Tuesday and Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Amantia became the student’s social studies teacher in eighth grade, according to the tort notice. He paid her a lot of attention, made comments about her appearance and began to stand close behind her, massaging her neck and shoulders in plain view of others, her attorneys claim.
Amantia did this in the cafeteria once and refused to let her go, the notice alleges.
Amantia resumed his behavior after a few weeks, and three more meetings with the guidance counselor did not lead to any actions, the lawyers said. The notice said the allegations were reported up the chain of command, but not to the top.
The notice said Amantia tried to physically assault her in the spring of 2017 when he locked her in a classroom after school and exposed himself to her. She claims he pushed her against a wall and tried to pull down her pants, but she was able to flee after stabbing him with a pencil.
Meanwhile, the girl has anxiety attacks and has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. She was hospitalized for several weeks after a mental health episode in February, the notice said.