A former student of The Dalton School, the elite prep school in New York City, has accused the former headmaster of “preying” on her when she was 14.
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In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Newark Federal Court, the student, identified in court records as J.S., alleged she was repeatedly subjected to sexual touching and groping by the former headmaster, Gardner Dunnan, in late 1986 and early 1987 while she was a student.
At the time of the alleged misconduct J.S. was living in the headmaster’s Upper East Side house and working as a family helper to defray the cost of tuition, her lawsuit said.
“J.S. and her family were thrilled, believing that J.S. was getting an unrivaled chance to expand her academic possibilities, be introduced to and make connections with New York City’s highest society and to fundamentally expand her education and future opportunities,” the lawsuit said. “Instead J.S. was sexually assaulted, repeatedly, by Dalton’s headmaster.”
The Dalton School responded to the allegations in a statement, telling ABC News, "Dalton first received news of these allegations this morning. We take these issues very seriously and support any victim of sexual abuse."
A person who answered the phone at Dunnan’s home declined to comment.
The lawsuit accused Dunnan of touching, disrobing and fondling J.S. without consent. J.S., who now lives in New Jersey, also claims she was groped at the former headmaster’s summer home.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, accused Dalton of turning a “blind eye” to the alleged abuse and “failing to properly supervise Dunnan.” He resigned in 1997 after an affair with a female teacher.
The alleged abuse J.S. suffered left her “permanently scarred,” her lawsuit said. For decades she felt she had to keep it secret due to her sense of shame.
“Survivors of sex abuse often spend decades convinced it was their fault or overwhelmed with shame,” said Mariann Wang, the woman’s attorney. “The #MeToo movement has shifted the ground beneath all our feet. It has allowed our client to begin at last to confront and begin to address what happened to her.”