The Duxbury schools superintendent said Wednesday that administrators have been on “high alert” for years regarding a physical education teacher who was put on administrative leave in November after a Duxbury couple alleged the teacher sexually assaulted their son in the mid-2000s.
That teacher was named in a 14-page civil complaint filed by a lawyer for Duxbury residents Joseph and Melissa Foley, who allege that gym teacher John Blake repeatedly raped their son Parker Foley inside Duxbury Middle School, creating a life of torment that ended when the 27-year-old died of a drug overdose last fall.
The suit filed Tuesday in Plymouth Superior Court names both Blake and the Duxbury Schools as defendants and alleges that inappropriate touching of Foley by Blake escalated to rape and forced oral sex in the gym and empty classrooms at the middle school. According to the complaint, the alleged assaults only stopped when Foley brought a knife to school and threatened his tormentor.
The suit contends that the school district “was grossly negligent in such a way that amounted to deliberate, reckless and/or callous indifference about the health, welfare, and safety of Parker while Parker was under DPS’s supervision, care and control.”
Kevin Reddington, a lawyer for Blake, said in a phone interview that his client “a thousand percent” denies the allegations in the Foleys’ civil complaint and plans to file a countersuit against them. “This guy is a good guy,” Reddington said of Blake. “There is no case here.”
The lawsuit is the latest problem to hit the Duxbury School System, which fired its football coach after disclosures that his team used anti-Semitic terms on the field this year. But these new allegations date back several years, and involve a prominent high school hockey coach.
“We’ve been on high alert with John Blake since 2018, and we’ve been really frustrated that for those three years we haven’t been able to take any action,” Duxbury Superintendent John Antonucci said in an interview on Wednesday.
Antonucci, who joined the Duxbury schools in 2017, said that he had received three concerning allegations about Blake, who had also served as the boys’ varsity hockey coach for nearly two decades, but all the allegations lacked the physical evidence necessary for the administration to take formal action.
In 2017, he said, the Duxbury schools received a letter criticizing Blake’s treatment of hockey players. Antonucci did not respond when asked to elaborate on the specifics of the letter. Another complaint surfaced in 2019, he said, involving a gym student who claimed Blake had made her feel uncomfortable and was “creepy.”
The third complaint was lodged in 2018 by Joseph Foley, who reached out to Antonucci anonymously a few weeks after his son disclosed his trauma while home for the holidays. Parker had become agitated by a news story on television.
“We were like, ‘What’s going on, Parker?’ And he just had a breakdown. He said, ‘I was molested when I was in middle school by my gym teacher John Blake. I can’t talk about it,’ ” Joseph Foley said in an interview Wednesday. “Then he said, ‘You have no idea how hard it is to be the kid with dyslexia, and the kid with a drug problem. I can’t also go through life also as the kid who was sexually molested.’”
The Foleys were devastated, calling the last declaration “the hardest thing in the entire world to hear as a parent.”
Parker, who left the Duxbury school system before ninth grade, swore his family to secrecy after his disclosure, fearful of the publicity such an allegation would bring. But his parents felt an obligation to report the allegations about Blake to the school. His father submitted an anonymous tip.
“I wasn’t very optimistic about that doing anything because something that’s 100 percent anonymous is a difficult thing to prove,” said Joseph Foley. After the anonymous tip, Blake was briefly placed on administrative leave in 2018 but was later reinstated after the investigation fizzled out.
For the next two years, Parker continued to struggle with substance abuse, enduring periods of sober stability and the dark depths of relapse. All the while, he did what he loved the most: fishing, snowboarding, playing with his dog, and spending time with his family. On Oct. 20, 2020, he sent his parents a photo of Big Sky, Mont., where he planned to travel with his friends. The next day his parents learned he had died from an overdose.
After Parker’s death, the Foleys discovered a journal entry that further outlined the alleged assault by Blake more than a decade earlier. In November, they again contacted Antonucci, this time revealing their identity and sharing information they’d gathered from the few people Parker had confided in over the years.
On Nov. 25, 2020, Blake was again placed on paid administrative leave from his coaching and teaching roles, according to Duxbury officials. He has not been charged with any crimes.
Reddington, Blake’s attorney, described the Foleys’ lawsuit as “salacious” and said “it is nasty, it is dirty, and it is very disturbing.”
Blake, Reddington said, has never had a prior allegation of misconduct brought against him in 25 years as a teacher and coach.
“He is beloved,” Reddington said, lamenting what he said was the ordeal Blake’s suffered having his “character assassinated” by “this malicious allegation.”
“John is a wonderful man,” Reddington said. “He’s a family man.”
The accusations come as the Duxbury school district continues to grapple with the fallout from anti-Semitic play calls the Duxbury High School football team used during a March 12 game. Dave Maimaron, the longtime coach of the team, was fired March 24 from his coaching role, but remains on administrative leave from his role as a special education teacher.
The Foleys maintain that the timing of their lawsuit amid the football controversy is purely coincidental. A criminal investigation into their allegations launched by the Duxbury Police Department “ultimately found that charges could not be brought forward because the alleged victim in the case was deceased,” according to a statement by Chief Stephen R. McDonald. The Plymouth County district attorney’s office assisted in the investigation.
The school’s investigation into the allegations, completed by independent investigator Regina Ryan, ended in early March, concluding that “Blake had violated the District’s sexual harassment policy and code of conduct.”
But the Foleys were not allowed to review either the Duxbury Police report or the school’s investigation, aside from a redacted four-page summary of the latter provided March 25, which said that “the student was subjected to unwelcome conduct of sexual nature in violation of the school’s harassment policy,” according to the Foleys.
It was only then that the couple decided to pursue civil litigation that would give them the power to subpoena the entirety of the two investigations. They say they hope the reports will give them greater clarity on the trauma their son endured in middle school and struggled to cope with for the remainder of his life.
Shortly after the suit was filed by attorney Jason Morgan, Antonucci and Duxbury School Committee Chair Kellie Bresnehan issued a statement Tuesday night lamenting Parker’s October death and announcing the conclusion of the school’s six-month investigation.
“We are understandably disturbed by what has been alleged, but need to make clear that this district took the proper actions once we were notified of a complaint. It is absolutely untrue that the district failed to take reasonable steps and/or implement reasonable safeguards to avoid such acts from occurring in our schools, as is alleged in the lawsuit,” read the statement.
A call to a number listed for Blake was not immediately returned Wednesday. Beyond his role as a physical education teacher, he has long been a prominent figure in local scholastic hockey circles, taking over the helm of the Duxbury boys’ team in 2003 and leading them to three state championships.
For the Foleys, it is difficult to look back on all the trauma that their son weathered alone for so many years, and how his alleged abuse led him to a lifelong struggle with addiction.
“It’s a lot of could’ve, should’ve, would’ves, but we’re focusing on what we can do moving forward,” said Joe Foley. “And what I mainly hope is that if someone, whether it is a child or adult in 1,000 different situations, has been abused and feels like they’re going at it alone, please know there is always somebody there to help.”
Hanna Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @hannaskrueger. Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.