August 9, 2020
By Jay Tokasz and Mike McAndrew
Former Smallwood Elementary School teacher Trent Hariaczyi pleaded guilty in 2005 to possessing child pornography and served 18 months in federal prison.
Now, a local man who was a Smallwood student from 1994 to 2000 is alleging Hariaczyi molested him, and the Amherst Central School District allowed it to happen.
The man, now in his early 30s, sued the district in July, more than 20 years after the alleged abuse.
“He’s just broken over this,” said the man’s lawyer, Paul Barr.
The Amherst District superintendent’s office on Friday emailed a statement that said the district became aware last week of “troubling allegations” regarding the conduct of a former district employee. “The former employee at issue left the district in 2002,” the statement said. “The district is undertaking all appropriate steps in response to this information.”
The case against Amherst schools is among at least 720 lawsuits in Western New York filed since last August under the Child Victims Act, including a surge of more than 200 cases filed since July 24.
Statewide, about 3,800 CVA cases have been filed since last August. New York County Supreme Court so far has received the most CVA filings in the state, with 851, according to the Office of Court Administration. Erie County had the second-most filings, with 636.
Most of the filings allege abuse by Catholic priests, scout leaders and teachers, although a handful of suits accuse family members, doctors and law enforcement. Just within the past two weeks, new CVA suits have targeted the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, Amherst Youth Hockey and Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Erie, Niagara and the Southern Tier.
The Buffalo Diocese has been named as a defendant in at least 263 CVA suits in Western New York, making it the region’s most sued entity, even though lawsuits against the diocese mostly have stopped since it filed in February for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Other Catholic entities, such as parishes and schools, continue to be named as defendants in many lawsuits.