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Friday, September 19, 2014

Columbia Teacher Nicole Dufault Pleads Not Guilty to Aggravated Sexual Assault of Minors


First Reported on PlaceNJ.com: The Columbia High School teacher charged with multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child pleaded not guilty to all charges. 


According to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, 35 year old Caldwell resident Nicole Dufault allegedly had sex with at least five students in her car and on CHS property in Maplewood. Dufault was initially charged with having sex with three students. The incidents allegedly took place during the 2013-14 school year and during the 2014 summer school program.


Dufault, a mother of two young children, was arrested at night on Wednesday, September 17 at her Caldwell condominium. Dufault is recently divorced, and her ex-husband was arrested in June on charges of burglary and theft. Her children have been removed from her custody.




Multiple news outlets were present near the high school on Friday, September 19, including reporters from WCBS, WNBC, WPIX, WXTV, and WNJU. Reporters for the stations interviewed students before and after school. Principal Elizabeth Aaron asked students on Thursday, September 18 not to speak to the media, and informed students that reporters were prohibited from school grounds. 




In addition, the Maplewood Police Department posted temporary 'No Parking' signs in the neighborhood surrounding the Parker Avenue school on Friday morning.


Aaron, Assistant Principal Michael Healy, and dean Craig Rynar were present outside of CHS before and after school on Friday, September 19. Several Maplewood Police officers were present at the corner of Kensington Terrace and Parker Avenue. A WPIX news van was parked at that location and was surrounded by students. A police officer told the driver to move to another location.




No announcement was made to students during the school day regarding the alleged incident, though Aaron said it was a "gorgeous Friday morning" during the morning announcements. A letter sent yesterday by the South Orange Maplewood School District to parents said that staff "are supporting students and staff impacted by events", though no further announcement was made in the school on Friday regarding this.


In addition, some students claim that there is a video which reportedly shows Dufault having sex with a student. This video may have been viewed by several students. One staff member warned her class that sharing the video of the alleged incident could constitute sending child pornography.


A sign outside of Dufault's classroom, B238, reads "Room Unusable". The sign was posted on Thursday morning. Dufault taught at Columbia High School for nine years, and was previously known as Nicole Bradley. Her name remained on the list of Columbia High School Language Arts faculty as of this report.


According to the Personnel Fiscal Resolutions from the June 16 Board of Education meeting, Dufault was to be paid $50 per hour for being an English teacher for the Bridge to Success summer program between July 7 and July 31. According to the SOMSD website, "Bridge to Success is a four-year program that is designed to provide additional support for students who are at-risk...The summer program provides participants with academic and study skills instruction".




Dufault is being held in the Essex County Correctional Center in Newark in lieu of $500,000 bail. Her attorney is Timothy Smith of the Fairfield based Caruso Smith Picini law firm. She is presumed innocent unless found guilty.


The Essex County Prosecutor's Office said that anyone with information relating to their investigation should call (973) 753-1130.




This story will be updated.


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The story was reported first on PlaceNJ.com.

Top photo courtesy Essex County Correctional Center

All other photos credit Jared Kofsky/PlaceNJ.com
Bottom photo shows the Columbia High School staff parking lot reportedly used by Dufault during the 2013-14 school year.

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Full Press Release from Essex County Prosecutor's Office:


"Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Maplewood Police Chief Robert J. Cimino announced today that a teacher at Columbia High School in Maplewood has been charged with sexually assaulting two more male students. Late Tuesday Nicole Dufault, 35, of Caldwell was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting three students. With the charges authorized today, the number of victims rises to five. She is accused of multiple counts of first degree aggravated sexual assault and multiple counts of second degree endangering the welfare of a child. All five of the victims are 15-year-old boys who were students at Columbia High School. Today Dufault made her first court appearance. She entered a not guilty plea to the charges involving the original three victims. All of the incidents occurred during the regular school year and also during summer school in 2013 and 2014. Dufault is currently being held at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark on $500,000 bail. She has been ordered to have no contact with any of the victims. Dufault has two minor children who have been removed from her custody. A language arts teacher who has been employed at the school for approximately 9 years, Dufault is accused of having oral sex and vaginal intercourse with the students on school property and in her car on multiple occasions. The investigation, which is active and ongoing, was conducted by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit and the Maplewood Police Department. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit at 973-753-1130. Counseling and other assistance will be available to students through the South Orange/Maplewood School district. These are accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they enter a guilty plea or are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law."


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Full Press Release from SOMSD School Board president Elizabeth Daugherty:


"
The allegations released by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office are deeply disturbing. By law, administrators and Board of Education members are not permitted to publicly discuss personnel or individual student matters, or other issues requiring confidentiality. The Board and administration will continue to cooperate fully with the ongoing investigations. I am impressed with the calm professionalism of the CHS and district administrative teams, especially new Principal, Elizabeth Aaron, as they maintain laser-sharp focus on teaching and learning and supporting all students during these very difficult days."