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School fires Duxbury gym teacher accused of raping student

A Duxbury middle school physical education teacher accused of raping a student has been fired as police investigate more than a dozen anonymous tips related to the case, school officials said Tuesday.

John Blake, the varsity boys hockey coach at Duxbury High School for nearly two decades, was placed on administrative leave in November after a couple alleged that he sexually assaulted their middle school son in the mid-2000s. The couple, Joseph and Melissa Foley, filed a lawsuit against Blake and the Duxbury school system last week.

At a School Committee meeting Tuesday, John Antonucci, the superintendent of Duxbury’s public schools, said Blake’s employment terminated April 1.

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“The Duxbury Police Department has received over a dozen anonymous tips in relation to this case, and is following up on every one of them,” he said. “We have been informed that none of the tips are actionable from a legal standpoint.”

Joseph Foley said he did not understand why the district took so long to fire Blake given the seriousness of the allegations.

“If I had a kid right now in the school system, I would wonder why it took a month to terminate a teacher that your own internal third-party report had verified to be in violation of school policy as early as March 2,” Foley said, referring to an independent investigation that concluded Blake had “violated the District’s sexual harassment policy and code of conduct.”

“That’s the question. Right? Why did it take nearly a month?” he asked.

Blake has sharply denied the allegations. His lawyer, Kevin Reddington, said Blake took a polygraph test Monday and “passed 100 percent.”

“People are making assumptions about John Blake that are way off-base,” Reddington said. “This case is absolutely malicious and not based on any factual evidence whatsoever . . . he’s a decent guy, he’s taught thousands of students over decades. He’s being dealt a very dirty hand here.”

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Reddington said they will file a countersuit against the Foleys claiming malicious prosecution, slander, and libel.

Antonucci said last week that he had received three concerning allegations about Blake and administrators have been on “high alert” regarding the teacher since 2018.

In 2017, the school received a complaint about Blake’s treatment of hockey players. In 2019, another student complained that Blake had made her feel uncomfortable in gym class and was “creepy.”

The third complaint was made in 2018 by Foley. Last week, he and his wife filed a 14-page civil complaint in Plymouth Superior Court alleging that Blake repeatedly raped their son, Parker Foley, inside the Duxbury Middle School in the mid-2000s.

According to the complaint, Blake, who would decide whether boys were appropriately dressed for gym class, held Parker back from participating in class and took him to an empty room, where he allegedly began touching the boy inappropriately. Blake’s touching escalated to rape and forced oral sex in the gym and in empty classrooms, the suit alleges.

The assaults ended when Parker threatened Blake with a knife, according to the complaint.

“When Blake attempted to sexually assault Parker that day, Parker drew the knife on Blake and threatened to kill Blake if he ever touched him again. Only then did Blake cease his sexual assaults on Parker,” the lawsuit says.

Parker Foley, who died of a drug overdose last fall at the age of 27, told his parents about the assaults while he was home for the holidays, according to the lawsuit, and Joseph Foley made an anonymous complaint to Antonucci in 2018. Foley said his son disclosed this trauma after he became agitated by a television news report.

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He had sworn his family to secrecy after telling them what happened, but his parents felt obligated to report the allegations. Blake was subsequently placed on administrative leave in 2018 but was later reinstated after the investigation went cold.

His parents say the alleged abuse created a life of torment for Parker. After their son’s death, his parents found a journal entry that included details of the alleged abuse by Blake. They contacted Antonucci, this time identifying themselves, and shared what they had learned from the journal entry and some of the people Parker had confided in.

His parents said the account was part of his sobriety journal, and it was not contemporaneous with the alleged abuse.

Blake was again placed on paid leave on Nov. 25, a day after the Foleys complained, barring him from his roles as a teacher and coach.

The Foleys’ lawsuit also names the local school district as a defendant. They claim school officials were “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.”

Antonucci and Duxbury School Committee chair Kellie Bresnehan issued a statement last week expressing sympathy for the Foley family while defending the district’s handling of the case.

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School officials were “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,” they said.


Hanna Krueger can be reached at hanna.krueger@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @hannaskrueger. Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.