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Dover Area School District settles lawsuit with sexual abuse victim

The Dover Area School District agreed to settle a lawsuit with a woman who was sexually abused by a former music teacher. The school board voted unanimously to approve the $1.2 million settlement. The lawsuit was filed after Matthew Puterbaugh was sentenced on charges related to having sex with a student over the course of four years.

The lawsuit alleged the district mishandled reports the victim made in 2002 and 2004 that Puterbaugh was sexually abusing her.

The abuse began when the victim was just 11 years old. She reported Puterbaugh’s inappropriate conduct to teachers and administrators in 2002 and 2004. The woman first had sex with Puterbaugh when she was 12 years old, the suit alleges.

The sexual encounters took place on school grounds at Dover Intermediate School, at Puterbaugh’s home and at the victim’s home during school district-sanctioned music lessons. The pair had sex at least 80 times, according to court filings.

At 13, the victim was impregnated by Puterbaugh and went to Maryland to get an abortion.

The suit alleged school staff persuaded the plaintiff to recant her report of sexual abuse, citing Puterbaugh was a “good teacher” and “these allegations will ruin his (Puterbaugh’s) career.” The woman came “under duress” by school staff and returned to the teacher she’d originally reported the abuse to and told them she would”lie and say it didn’t happen,” according to the lawsuit.

By that point, the district terminated their investigation.

“As a consequence of the failure by the District, its schools and Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 to take meaningful, effective and/or legally required action in response to the allegations by the plaintiff and others regarding his improper and outrageous conduct, Puterbaugh was able to continue his course of conduct and persist in his abuse of plaintiff and other female students for years,” the suit states.

The woman said she attempted suicide four times between the age of 13 and 18. She has undergone mental health treatment because of the abuse, the lawsuit claims.

Puterbaugh was eventually reported to authorities in April 2013 by the school district after receiving an anonymous call about Puterbaugh’s sexual relationship with the plaintiff, according to the lawsuit. Police were again notified by the district in Feb. 2014 after a 12-year-old student told a school resource officer that Puterbaugh had caressed and squeezed her thigh during a music class.

Police searched his home and found more than 660 pornographic images of children engaged in sexual acts. They also found videos and photographs of numerous past and present female students of Dover Intermediate School, including the plaintiff. Many of the photographs were of the girl’s undergarments, legs and cleavage areas.

Puterbaugh is currently serving a 15-year federal sentence for the production of child pornography and 5 to 10 years on charges involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and sexual assault. The sentences will run concurrently.

In the response to FOX43’s Right-to-Know request to obtain the settlement, the district stated it is important to note the settlement is fully covered by the district’s liability insurance policy.