Sex Abuse Allegations Surface in Waltham Schools

A former Waltham Public Schools student has filed a lawsuit alleging that a former Waltham High School principal failed to act on prior reports of sexual abuse by a teacher that could have prevented the teacher from abusing him.

Patch.com reports that former student and alleged victim, Michael Phillips Jr., in the lawsuit filed in Middlesex Superior Court on Dec. 16, claims that former Waltham High School Principal and School Committee member-elect John Graceffa failed to act on prior reports of sexual abuse against students by Robert Dacey a former drama teacher at John W. McDevitt Middle School, who died in 2007 while he was awaiting trial on sexual abuse charges.

Graceffa currently works as the dean of students at Arlington Catholic High School in Arlington, according to the Boston Globe.

Specifically, Phillips’ attorney, Carmen Durso said that Graceffa had been informed three times in 2002 about prior acts of abuse by Dacey, but failed to take action about them.

Dacey allegedly abused Phillips, now 20, in 2005, while a student at McDevitt Middle School. Phillips, after being abused three times, reported it to police in August 2006, according to Durso.

Reached by Waltham Patch yesterday, Graceffa said he had “no idea” about the lawsuit and was shocked to learn about it from a reporter. When asked whether he planned to take his seat on the School Committee early next year, he said, “yes.”

Specifically, the lawsuit claims Graceffa violated the state’s law that mandates school officials report such incidents to police. The suit also claims the City of Waltham, also named as a defendant, violated Title IX, a federal law requiring schools to have procedures about notice, education and training for reporting sexual abuse.

“Waltham very likely has such procedures but they certainly were not followed in this case. If they had been, Michael … probably would not have been abused,” Durso said.

Dacey died in June 2007, reportedly from a heart attack, while awaiting trial on 17 felony charges of sexual intercourse with a child, assault with intent to rape, indecent assault and battery on child under the age of fourteen, indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14, indecent assault and battery on a child over the age of 14, enticement of a child and statutory rape of a child, according to the lawsuit. The charges stem from alleged abuse against three separate boys.

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