Three new accusers stepped forward in the lawsuit against Nicole Dufault, a New Jersey teacher charged with multiple counts of sexual assault while teaching at Columbia High School in Maplewood. Dufault now faces more former students who claim she groomed, sexually assaulted, and eventually raped them while in her class.
In January 2020, the former teacher admitted to the criminal sexual misconduct charges and entered a plea deal before her trial was set to start. The 40-year-old pled guilty to three counts of aggravated criminal sexual conduct as part of the deal, which called for a five-year state prison sentence.
The plea also insisted that Nicole Dufault register as a sex offender, lose her teaching licenses, and be subject to a lifetime of parole supervision. At the time, Eric Plant, the Assistant Prosecutor, said in a statement that “we believe this is an appropriate resolution,” and that “we hope that it will deter other individuals entrusted with the welfare of children from engaging in similar acts and ensures the public’s safety by requiring Ms. Dufault to register as a sex offender and forfeit her employment as a teacher in this state.”
Dufault was originally arrested for her crimes in 2014 after students came forward claiming she had engaged in sexual activity with them on multiple occasions between 2013 and 2014. The former language arts teacher, who had been teaching at Columbia High School in Maplewood, faced a 40-count indictment on charges of aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
In one case, a student alleged that Nicole Dufault was notorious around his middle school, with rumors saying she would have sex with students, help them cut class, and shower them with gifts. Dufault then began abusing the child before he entered ninth grade, while he was in a summer program for kids with learning disabilities.
During his freshman year, Dufault began grooming him, court documents say, and eventually, it escalated to molestation and rape. The boy claimed he was “hand-picked,” and was purposely placed in her class. He was also given gifts, as part of his grooming, including a pair of expensive sneakers he claimed was “one of the best gifts” he’d ever received.
The student was abused more than 200 times, according to the lawsuit, and Nicole Dufault reportedly manipulated his grades via the school’s computer system, wiped out truancy reports, and let him cut class so they could be together.
Multiple victims have since come forward. By January 23, 2020, the lawsuit had accumulated 6 victim testimonies. One victim claimed his abuse occurred as early as 2011, beginning during the same summer school program for children with learning disabilities.
Her victims are seeking $50 million in damages and prosecuting attorneys insist the administration is also at fault. “She was just out of control with her behavior,” John Baldante, the lawyer representing the victims, claimed. He said that the teacher’s actions were so blatant, it’s hard to believe that the school administration knew nothing about it.
“The question here is, what did the school know directly or what should they have known?” Baldante also wonders if the school district could have done more to prevent the incidents from happening in the first place.
During the initial trial, Nicole Dufault’s lawyer, Timothy Smith, argued that the teacher’s actions were caused by a brain surgery she had recently undergone, leaving her vulnerable to the students. At the time, that argument won Dufault a lighter sentence, as prosecutors were expected to recommend only five years in prison.
Smith claimed that he had a previous client who suffered from “frontal lobe syndrome,” which experts say can cause impulsive behavior and a lack of control. Dufault worked at several other public schools in Passaic and Bergen counties before teaching in Maplewood and was scheduled to be sentenced on June 8 of last year.
With the new victims stepping forward, the case is likely to reopen and Dufault may face a harsher sentence. It’s unclear whether the New Jersey teacher is currently serving her time, or if she is being held as new information comes to light.