Way to teach your students about sexual consent and responsibility, Chappaqua Central School District. In court papers from the case against former Horace Greeley High School teacher Christopher Schraufnagel, who was accused of sexual abuse by four students, Chappaqua school officials said the young people were partly to blame for what happened.
The students were 15 at the time of the alleged abuse, which took place between 2011 and 2015 and included using a student for oral sex, pressuring a student to engage in sexual acts and asking students to email or text inappropriate photos to him.
School officials, who deny any responsibility, say Schraufnagel “will be wholly or partially responsible” and that any harm suffered by the four students was “caused or contributed to by reason of the carelessness, recklessness, negligence and/or assumption of the risk, both implied and expressed, of the plaintiffs.”
Schraufnagel, 42, who has pleaded not guilty, resigned last fall.
The teacher’s interaction with the students appeared to begin innocently enough: text messages to arrange meeting times and class assignments. But the students’ lawyer, David Engelsher, said that, over time, Schraufnagel’s messages “became a little more intimate and pointed and sexual in nature.”
It is here that the school district did have a responsibility to its students — one that it absolutely failed to fulfill. Chappaqua is one of several New York state school districts that has no policy in place to protect students from teachers who cross the line, such as using electronic communication to effectively “groom” students for abuse, with their parents none the wiser.
Unlike New Jersey and New York City, New York state has no requirement for school districts to set any standards at all for electronic communication between teachers and students.
Surely all electronic communication between teachers and students should take place in a way that can be easily monitored and regulated by the school, such as a central district website? If this were in place in Chappaqua, Schraufnagel wouldn’t have been able to groom the students in this way. Yet district officials have the audacity to label the students themselves as “careless” and reckless.”
Setting aside the district’s shameful abdication of any responsibility for these crimes, how can a 15-year-old be held accountable for the actions of a grown man? Yes, teenagers can be careless and reckless and often take risks and do stupid things without thinking of the consequences. But they are the victims in this case. They are minors. It’s sickening that this appears to have been completely forgotten by the people whose positions imply that they have the interests of young people at heart.