WALDOBORO, Maine — A former principal of Medomak Valley High School is being accused of sexually harassing a female student, allegedly sending her sexually suggestive text messages, buying her a car and repeatedly asking her to move in with him.
Andrew Cavanaugh, the former principal at Medomak Valley High School, Regional School Unit 40, and Chuck Nguyen, a social worker at the high school, were named as defendants in the lawsuit filed Friday on behalf of the now 19-year-old woman in federal court in Portland.
Cavanaugh resigned from his post in December 2017. Shortly before his resignation, police began an investigation into whether there was an inappropriate relationship going on between a student and a staff member at the high school. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office found that no crime occurred.
The lawsuit alleges that Cavanaugh harassed the student on nearly a daily basis but that when she took her concerns to Nguyen he assured her that Cavanaugh’s actions were not inappropriate and that he was trying to be a “father figure.” Social workers are required to report allegations of abuse to authorities.
The woman has since been diagnosed with adjustment disorder, social anxiety and worsened depression “as a direct result of the emotionally traumatic relationship with [Cavanaugh],” according to the lawsuit.
“Cavanaugh’s actions were extreme, outrageous, beyond the bounds of decency and utterly intolerable in a civilized society,” the lawsuit states.
When the girl was 16 and a junior at Medomak Valley High School, Cavanaugh began to “pay special attention” to her, according to the lawsuit. This included making sexually based comments about her looks and clothing choices in front of other students and staff. Cavanaugh also purchased personal hygiene products for the female student and gave them to her in front of teachers and students, the lawsuit claims.
The woman told Nguyen about these “gifts” and asked if this was normal behavior. Nguyen said Cavanaugh was being “nice” to her.
Cavanaugh also offered to bring the student to a doctor’s appointment that was mandatory for her participation in cheerleading and advised the student she should be on birth control. The student again brought this information to Nguyen and asked if it was appropriate, according to the lawsuit.
“Nguyen assured her that [Cavanaugh] was just trying to be a father figure,” according to the lawsuit.
Between April 2017 and November 2017, Cavanaugh and the student exchanged about 5,000 text messages, according to the lawsuit.
Messages from Cavanaugh allegedly inquired about the woman’s relationship status and sexual activity, according to the lawsuit. Many of the messages also included sexual innuendos and some solicited photos of the woman.
In reference to prom dresses, on May 18, 2017, Cavanaugh allegedly sent a text stating, “It would be [hard] for you to not look sexy, but I get the point. Send me a picture and I will tell you straight up how you look.”
In an Oct. 6, 2017 text, Cavanaugh said, “I might have to give you a spanking.” Three days later, in another text, Cavanugh said, “I bet if I slapped you a couple times you would be mine forever!”
When the student wouldn’t respond to the messages, Cavanaugh would sometimes ask her to stop by his office, or he would repeatedly text her asking why she was being “quiet,” according to the lawsuit.
In May 2017, according to the lawsuit, Cavanaugh asked the student to live with him during her senior year — an invitation he brought up multiple times. He would also offer the woman gifts, whether it be money that he gave to her directly or left in the office for her, or offering her a scholarship to the program Outward Bound, according to the lawsuit.
In July 2017, Cavanaugh told the woman that he bought a car for her and that “she could work for him to pay it off,” according to the lawsuit. “Don’t worry cupcake, I won’t sell you into white slavery,” Cavanaugh allegedly said in a July 5, 2017, text message.
In September 2017, the woman was pulled over for speeding, and the police officer allegedly expressed concern that the vehicle she was driving was owned by and registered to Cavanaugh. After she was pulled over, Cavanaugh told her he would need the car back.
“I like to help you and it does seem to cause problems. I know you are super hot and that probably does influence me, but you must know by now that I really do like you as a person.” Cavanaugh said in a Sept. 19, 2017, text.
After a third party notified police of the inappropriate relationship between Cavanaugh and the woman, the school district put him on administrative leave in the fall of 2017, before he ultimately resigned in December. Around this time, Nguyen called the student into his office and told her that Cavanaugh had a drinking problem, according to the lawsuit.
Nguyen is still employed at Medomak Valley High School as a social worker, according to the school’s website.
Through the lawsuit, the woman is asking for unspecified damages and the coverage of her legal costs. She is being represented by attorneys Eric R. LeBlanc and Rachel J. Deschuytner.
Messages sent to Nyugen and RSU 40 Superintendent Steve Nolan were not immediately returned Monday. Cavanaugh could not be immediately located for comment. Lawsuits represent only one side of a case.
Medomak Valley High School is located in Waldoboro, serving as the high school for RSU 40, which includes the towns of Waldoboro, Friendship, Union, Warren and Washington.