Two families of eight-year-old children filed a lawsuit Monday, claiming school administrators failed to protect their kids from a Delaware County school teacher accused of sexually assaulting several of his students.
The lawsuit was filed against Darby Township school teacher Paul E. Hochschwender, the Southeast Delco School District, former Darby Township Elementary School Principal Michael A.P. Jordan, Southeast Delco School District Superintendent Stephen D. Butz and Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Ryan.
In the lawsuit, filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the families state their children were abused several times by Hochschwender, 55, during the 2013-2014 school year. Hochschwender touched the second grade students’ chests, buttocks, legs and vaginal areas.
The lawsuit accuses the school system of not conducting an appropriate background check on Hochschwender. The parents also say the district didn’t try to consult or obtain available records documenting prior allegations of misconduct. Hochschwender had a previous history of abuse of his students that did not lead to disciplinary action even though it was reported by parents, according to the lawsuit.
“This kind of inappropriate conduct betrays the trust that families place in teachers and school officials for the well-being of their children” said attorney for the families Gerald J. Williams of the Philadelphia law firm Williams Cuker Berezofsky. “No lawsuit can completely undo the harm it does to kids, but it can shine a light on what happened here, and maybe keep it from happening to other children.”
Similar reports of abuse were made by students and families against Hochschwender at another Delaware County school between 1993 and 2000. The teacher is also accused of abusing children in 2006-2007 and 2011-2012 at the Darby Township Elementary School.
After the incident in the 2006-2007 school year, no disciplinary action was taken by the school district, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit accuses school administrators and employees of not reporting the incidents to law enforcement or other authorities, violating the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law in effect at the time.
While there was an investigation in the 2011-2012 school year, the lawsuit accuses Michael A.P. Jordan, who was the principal of Darby Township Elementary School at the time, of only reporting the incidents within the school system. The families claimed Hochschwender was “enabled in his persistent pattern of abuse of female students,” due to the alleged inaction and failure to report the previous abuse to law enforcement.
Hochschwender was first arrested in March of 2014 and was arrested a second and third time in April and May of that year after more accusers came forward. He pleaded “no contest” in January in three cases of abusing at least nine schoolchildren.
Hochschwender was charged with two counts of institutional sexual assault, four counts of indecent assault and corruption of minors in each case.
NBC10 reached out to the Southeast Delco School District for comment. We have not yet heard back from them however.