A lawsuit seeking $5 million in damages accuses Broward County Public Schools and Sheridan Hills Elementary School faculty of ignoring claims of a substitute teacher’s sexual harassment of second grade students, thus setting the stage for his alleged fondling of a Sheridan Hills student the following school year.
That substitute teacher, Davie resident Christopher Falzone, eventually wasn’t prosecuted on that charge. The child moved to Indian River County with her mother.
But Falzone, 35, was arrested Monday after being accused of repeatedly fondling a Camp Live Oak camper while working as a counselor at the Fort Lauderdale day camp. He posted $25,000 bond Tuesday.
After Falzone’s arrest, Camp Live Oak and Renaissance Charter School of Cooper City, where he worked as a math instructor, each issued statements announcing Falzone’s firing, according to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report.
A school system battered by charges that it failed to protect Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students before the Feb. 14 mass shooting murder of 14 students and three adults now finds itself accused of failing to protect a third-grade student.
“My daughter even started wearing shorts under her uniform to try to prevent it from continuing,” the mother of the plaintiff said in a statement read by attorney Jeff Herman. “She was scared to tell an adult because it was an adult who was doing this to her. I did everything I could — contacted the police, the school, the church. Nothing was really done. I was told he wouldn’t work with kids again, but now I’ve come to see that was a lie.”
Falzone’s LinkedIn page lists a series of jobs that bring him into contact with children:Worship Director/Music Director at Two Rivers Church of South Florida, May 2012to January 2013; Music Director at Two Rivers, March 2014 to October 2014; Volunteer Coordinator at Young At Art Museum, October 2013 to March 2014; and Intensive Math Teacher for Charter Schools USA, which runs Renaissance Charter,since August 2015.
All but one of those jobs follow Falzone’s time at Sheridan Hills, November 2008 through June 2013.
The lawsuit claims during the 2011-12 school year, “Falzone began openly grooming and sexually harassing Jane Doe during Jane’s second grade school year by rubbing her back, hugging her and engaging in other inappropriate forms of touching.
“Additionally, Falzone openly sexually harassed other female children at the school by rubbing their backs and hugging them in class and during school events and performances.”
The suit says this occurred in front of Sheridan Hills faculty.
The following year, the suit claims, “Falzone was assigned to her class as a substitute teacher for approximately a one month period. During that time, Falzone repeatedly called Jane Doe to the front of the class where he would hug her and fondle her buttocks.
“Eventually, Falzone sexually assaulted Jane Doe by sticking his hand under her skirt and fondling her vagina,” the suit continues. “Additionally, on multiple occasions Falzone removed Jane Doe from her aftercare program at school and brought her to his classroom, where he would turn off the lights and kiss and fondle her.”
On June 5, 2013, Hollywood police took a report alleging fondling by Falzone.
A closeout memo from the Broward State Attorney’s Office said there were two other girls who also claimed Falzone would hug them and rub their butts, but the parents of those girls “did not wish for this to be pursued any further than the school board investigation.”
Also, the closeout memo references a handwritten note from a Sheridan Hills teacher on June 4 that says Falzone told Jane Doe on June 3 not to hug him and opines the girl often tried to maneuver herself into being around Falzone to satisfy a crush.
Without the other girls backing Jane Doe up and the teacher possibly denting the Jane Doe’s credibility, the state attorney’s office didn’t think it could get a conviction against Falzone.
“We contacted the school board and their investigation is still open,” the closeout memo said. “However, since (Falzone) was a substitute teacher, they have removed him from the list of substitute teachers.”
The statement from Jane Doe’s mother ended, “We did not get justice five years ago, but seeing the new story gives me hope that justice will now be served. And I hope the girl he abused and all the girls he molested can have some sense of peace, when they think back, that justice was served.”