SALAMANCA — A Cattaraugus County man has filed a lawsuit against the Salamanca City Central School District and a former teacher who did time in prison for sexual abuse.
Douglas Woodin alleges he endured repeated episodes of sexual abuse while he was in the seventh grade by teacher Michael J. DuPont during the 2002-03 school year at Salamanca.
The school district is being sued for various forms of liability, negligence, inadequate security, infliction of emotional distress and breach of duty, according to the lawsuit.
In the suit filed in Cattaraugus County Court, Woodin claims DuPont targeted him because he was an “outcast,” came from a single-parent home and “was ostracized from other students and had no friends” as a result of his Tourette’s syndrome.
The lawsuit alleges DuPont began to give Woodin special treatment, eventually making sexual advances toward Woodin, showing him pornography and having sexual contact with him, all on school grounds. DuPont “took every opportunity” to sexually abuse the child, the lawsuit says.
On one particular instance, the teacher obtained Woodin’s mother’s permission to take him on a field trip to a paintball range. The suit alleges Woodin turned out to be the only student on the trip, and the abuse continued amid the “unfettered privacy” of a paintball range owned by DuPont’s family.
Cattaraugus County sheriff’s deputies charged DuPont with sex crimes in October 2008 based on the accusations involving one 14-year-old boy. The Salamanca Press reported at the time that the Salamanca school district did not address how they were unaware DuPont continued to abuse students for so long before his arrest.
Cattaraugus County Sheriff Timothy Whitcomb, who was Cattaraugus County undersheriff in 2008, said at the time that before DuPont was made aware of the allegations, officials began building the case against him about a week before his arrest.
J. Doug Hay, district superintendent at the time, said in 2008 that the school cooperated fully with law enforcement agencies.
“When we were made aware, (school employees) were supportive of (Undersheriff) Whitcomb in monitoring the situation and Mr. DuPont,” Hay told The Press at the time.
As The Press reported in 2008, the sheriff’s report on DuPont’s arrest also alleged the teacher abused more children during his tenure. Whitcomb declined to comment on the exact number of students abused by DuPont.
“I don’t know if this will get bigger,” Whitcomb said shortly after the arrest in 2008. “In the past, once the report gets out, it does generate more people to come forward with information.”
Hillary Nappi, an attorney with the New York City law firm that filed Woodin’s Child Victims Act lawsuit, said Woodin was one of the victims interviewed at the time.
About a month after the initial arrest, the Sheriff’s Office reported additional charges had been filed, including two additional counts of second-degree sodomy with a 13-year-old boy in 2002.
In 2009, DuPont was sentenced to up to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts each of second-degree sodomy and disseminating indecent material to a minor during his time as a teacher. He was paroled in November 2018 and now lives as a registered sex offender in Little Valley.
The current Salamanca school district administration issued a statement saying no present-day school board member or administrator was serving in those capacities during the time of the events described in the lawsuit.
“The District, the Board of Education, and everyone in this Administration neither condone any acts of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or any act that might endanger the health, safety and, welfare of the students at Salamanca or wish to minimize the impact that such acts can have on children,” the district’s statement reads.
The statement notes that “policies and programs have been put in place to protect all students and individuals while they are in our care. We will continue to remain vigilant in our efforts in that regard.”
District officials “are not at liberty to discuss the matter publicly and will have no further comment while the case proceeds through the Court system.”