Sexual Abuse – Richard Plass and Stuyvesant High School (New York, NY)
An assistant principal at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in New York, Richard Plass, was arrested in 1999 on charges of sexually molesting a 15-year-old female student. The victim was under the direction of Plass and worked as his assistant. Plass cultivated close relationships with many of his students while managing the highly acclaimed Westinghouse science competition program at Stuyvesant.
The sexual abuse that occurred in Plass’ office initially entailed viewing pornography. He then tried to initiate physical contact with the victim, masturbated in her presence, and attempted to touch her genitals. The student described the incidents in a journal in which she identified the victim as a friend rather than herself. A teacher read the journal and reported the abuse to investigators. During an undercover investigation, Plass conceded that he sexually molested the girl. Although Plass continued to assert that the student initiated the contact, her age rendered sexual contact a crime regardless of Plass’ claims. Under a plea bargain, Plass was sentenced to three years’ probation and banned from acquiring another teaching position in New York City. In addition, Plass was ordered to register in a database for teachers who have been convicted of sexual abuse.
The 15-year old victim was not alone; other students who knew Plass through the Westinghouse program confessed that he made sexual comments to both boys and girls during his career at Stuyvesant. Complaints initially surfaced during Plass’ employment at Grover Cleveland High School in Queens. In 1985 and 1992, female students reported Plass’ inappropriate conduct to the school’s administration. The Board of Education claimed that Plass was disciplined with respect to the 1992 complaint.
Students who were subjected to Plass’ abusive conduct at Stuyvesant did not report Plass to the school or local authorities for fear of being excluded from participation in the Westinghouse program. Nevertheless, Stuyvesant High School may have ignored persistent rumors about Plass’ conduct long before his arrest as evidenced by its hiring of a teacher who had been accused of sexual misconduct in a previous position at another school. Claims against Plass may have been barred by the old statute of limitations in New York. However, under the new law, as of August 15, 2019, victims of sexual abuse are entitled to file claims against their abusers and the institutions that supervised them for abuse that occurred years or even decades ago, during a limited “lookback” period that now expires on August 14, 2021.
Levy Konigsberg LLP is a nationally recognized law firm that has recovered millions of dollars for victims of sexual abuse. If you or a member of your family has been the victim of sexual abuse, please contact our lawyers for a free consultation by calling 1-800-225-9825 or submit an email inquiry on this page.