|Lawyer Speaks on Winni Lawsuit
By Victoria Guay
November 14, 2008
TILTON - Peter Hutchins, the Manchester attorney representing Patience Cameron, the former Winnisquam Regional High School student who is suing the district for not taking action 30 years ago against an allegedly sexually abusive teacher, shed more light Thursday on why his client is seeking justice now.
Hutchins said the "vast majority of victims who come forward" — such as most of the people who made allegations during the sexual abuse suit he led against the Catholic Diocese of Boston — are in their 30s or 40s.
"A child or teen will often feel a sense of guilt or shame and they repress their feelings," Hutchins said. "Some are able to move on and build their lives but, sometimes, later in life, something happens to trigger the emotions and memories or a person reaches a point in their life where they are able to deal with what happened."
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Belknap County Superior Court, Patience Cameron, 45, of Jefferson said Walter Garland, who now is assistant principal at Exeter High School, sexually and emotionally abused her multiple times between 1978, when she was 15, and 1981, while he was a biology and ecology teacher at the school.
Neither Garland nor his attorney, James Bianco of Concord, could be reached for comment Thursday.
Garland was placed on paid leave from his current position in Exeter on Nov. 3 when the superintended learned of the accusations. Garland has not been accused of misconduct with students during his six years at Exeter High School, Exeter Superintendent Michael Morgan said.
According to Hutchins, Garland has denied the allegations through Bianco.
In the lawsuit, Cameron alleges that the abuse began with kissing and fondling and escalated to intercourse. She claims the district "had actual knowledge that Garland was engaging in a pattern and practice of inappropriate conduct with minor children attending Winnisquam, including [her], including, but not limited to, mental, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of students."
Tammy Davis, Winnisquam's superintendent for the past two academic years, disputed the allegation that the district had knowledge of Garland's alleged misconduct, according to the Associated Press.
Davis could not be reached Thursday afternoon by The Citizen for further comment.
Hutchins said in a phone interview Thursday that it is typical for sexual assault victims to wait a number of years before coming forward. Hutchins said people in their 30s and 40s have settled into marriages and families, have started careers and feel they can tell their partners about what happened.
"In Patience's case, as it says in the suit, she bumped into some high school friends," Hutchins said, adding that, as they talked about former teachers, Garland's name came up and she learned he was working in Exeter.
"That brought ... a lot of feelings and emotions back to her," Hutchins said.
He added that Cameron first attempted to see if criminal charges could be filed against Garland but found that the statute of limitations had run out.
She next confronted Garland personally, by calling him on the phone.
According to Hutchins, Garland denied any wrongdoing and Cameron was then sent a letter by a lawyer representing Garland.
Hutchins said that is when Cameron sought his help.
In the suit, Cameron accuses Garland of using his position of authority to groom her and said he soon began "to forcibly sexually, emotionally, and mentally abuse" her.
"Mrs. Cameron had difficulty with Biology," the suit continues, "but Garland ... assured Mrs. Cameron that so long as she kept their secret, she would receive an 'A' in his class."
The statute of limitations on criminal charges has passed, but Hutchins says the civil suit is valid because Cameron did not learn until last year that administrators knew about the alleged abuse at the time.
Cameron said she learned that when she found out that her favorite teacher in high school, Judy Farr, had become the school principal. Cameron called Farr last year to tell her she had been molested by Garland, according to the lawsuit.
According to the suit, Farr said she was not surprised and that another student had complained to Winnisquam administrators about walking in on Garland while he was having "sexual contact" with a female student, but the administration did nothing.
According to the Associated Press, Farr, who retired last year, confirmed that Cameron had called her but she said she did not believe anything had been reported to administrators.
Hutchins said Thursday that a second woman, who lives in Florida and does not want to be part of the suit, has told him that Garland allegedly sexually pursued her in the late 1970s and that, once, an administrator did walk into Garland's office after he and she had had sex.
Hutchins said the attorneys representing the Winnisquam Regional School District have until January to file a response.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.