A former student at the Gow School has filed a Child Victims Act lawsuit against the private school in South Wales, alleging that a teacher there repeatedly sexually abused him in 1991-92 when he was a minor.
The accuser, identified as John Doe in a lawsuit filed Friday, was a "learning-disabled youth" from Ohio who attended and resided at Gow, which specializes in educating students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.
The suit alleges that a teacher, Thomas Simmeth, "engaged in unpermitted sexual abuse" with him. Simmeth did not respond Monday to messages seeking comment. The student is being represented by New York attorney Robert J. Greenstein of Greenstein & Milbauer.
"Gow School was aware or should have been aware of the serious problem of child sexual abuse within its programs," the lawsuit said.
It also alleges that Gow officials discouraged students and their families from disclosing allegations of sexual abuse.
The suit, the first Child Victims Act case against the Gow School, points out that students at the school are especially vulnerable because of their learning disabilities and the fact that they're residents of the boarding school.
In June, the school announced to parents and alumni that it was investigating an allegation of sexual misconduct involving a former teacher and male student from the 1990s. It wasn't clear if that investigation involved the same former student who filed the lawsuit Friday.
“Gow takes reports of these allegations seriously. Misconduct has no place at Gow," said Julia Hilliker, an attorney with Hodgson Russ who has hired by Gow to conduct an independent investigation about allegations.
“With regard to this new lawsuit, Gow cannot comment on the specifics of the complaint, other than to note there appear to be substantial errors," she said Monday. "For example, the complaint alleges that the anonymous plaintiff was assaulted in 1975 by an individual who was not associated with the school until decades later. Similarly, the complaint specifically references two alleged perpetrators who were never associated with Gow and who are entirely unknown to us.”
In 2003, Simmeth was fired from another private school for dyslexic boys, Linden Hill School in Northfield, Mass., according to an Associated Press article. Simmeth was charged with indecent assault and battery on a student at the school, the AP reported. He was acquitted in 2004 following a jury trial, according to court records.
On Aug. 14, the Child Victims Act opened a one-year window for childhood sexual abuse victims to file lawsuits that were previously barred because of the state's statutes of limitation. Since then, 304 CVA lawsuits have been filed in Western New York. Of those, 52 suits are against public school districts.
Park School and Gow School are the only nonreligious private schools sued.
Story topics: Child Victims Act