Education

A school hired him after unproven fondling accusations. They’re being sued for $5M

Christopher Falzone
Christopher Falzone BROWARD SHERIFF'S OFFICE

A second $5 million lawsuit has been filed accusing another Broward County elementary school of ignoring alleged butt-grabbing and other inappropriate behavior by a teacher.

The suit filed by a former third-grade student of Christopher Falzone accuses Renaissance Charter School at Cooper City of negligence and Title IX education violations.

Falzone was arrested Aug. 13 after a camper at Fort Lauderdale Camp Live Oak, where he was a counselor, accused the 35-year-old of repeatedly fondling her. Both the camp and the Cooper City school fired Falzone after his arrest.

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But he was a third grade math teacher at Renaissance Charter in 2017-18 when, the suit says, “Falzone groomed and sexually harassed Jane Doe in class and class activities by rubbing her back, fondling her buttocks, placing his fingers underneath her underwear, and engaging in other inappropriate forms of touching. Additionally, Falzone sexually harassed other female children in the school by similar physical misconduct.”

Similar accusations packed the $5 million lawsuit filed Friday against Broward County Public Schools regarding Falzone’s employment at Sheridan Hills Elementary, also filed by Boca Raton-based firm Herman Law.

Falzone worked as a substitute teacher at Sheridan Hills for five school years until June 2013, when three students accused him of fondling them. The Broward State Attorney’s Office close-out memo said two students’ parents didn’t want to take anything past the school board investigation of Falzone. Another student’s mother filed a police report against Falzone, but the close-out memo said a rebuttal witness and the lack of supporting witnesses made conviction unlikely.

Despite those accusations, Falzone was hired by Charter Schools USA as a math teacher in August 2015, according to his LinkedIn page. CSUSA runs Renaissance Charter School at Cooper City.

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A Thursday morning email from Renaissance Charter spokesperson Colleen Reynolds said, “Our highest priority is the safety and security of our students. Every employee goes through a background check before they are hired and are only hired if they receive a clear report. When we were made aware of the allegations and arrest, we took prompt action and terminated the employee. Due to privacy issues, we are not at liberty to discuss any issues regarding students or personnel.”

Reynolds said the school hadn’t seen the lawsuit yet.

The suit claims that when a “room mother” assigned to Falzone’s room took her concerns about him to Renaissance Charter School at Cooper City principal Jacob Goldberg, “The Principal assured the mother that Falzone had passed a criminal background check and was safe.

“He falsely informed her that his only recourse was to talk to Falzone about not hugging students and adjusting his class management approach.”

The mother, whose daughter was not touched by Falzone according to attorney Jeff Herman, talked to Goldberg two more times about Falzone, the suit said, including showing “I love you” and “I miss you” messages from female students to Falzone via the school’s electronic communications. Dissatisfied with the handling of the situation, she took her daughter out of Falzone’s class around Thanksgiving.

The suit claims, “Falzone’s sexual harassment and abuse of Jane Doe continued during the course of the 2017-18 school year unabated and unaffected by the actual notice of Falzone’s sexual misconduct received by Principal Goldberg.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated whose mother the lawsuit claims spoke to Principal Jacob Goldberg.

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