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Duxbury schools say parents of Parker Foley have no legal basis to sue

Duxbury Middle School
Duxbury Middle SchoolDavid L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Duxbury Public Schools said in a recent court filing that it should not be held legally responsible for the emotional trauma suffered by former student Parker Foley when he was allegedly sexually assaulted by former Duxbury Middle School gym teacher John Blake in the mid-2000s.

The school system, for the first time, responded April 20 to a civil lawsuit filed by Foley’s parents, who contend that administrators failed to protect their son from Blake, whom they allege raped their son. An attorney for Blake has repeatedly denied those allegations on behalf of the Canton man.

Foley died of a drug overdose last fall at the age of 27. “The plaintiffs’ injuries and damages were caused by someone for whose conduct, acts and omissions the defendant cannot be held responsible,” the school system’s attorney wrote.

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Foley’s parents, Joseph and Melissa, filed their lawsuit on March 30 in Plymouth Superior Court, but the attorney for the Duxbury school system is now seeking to transfer the entire matter to US District Court in Boston. The school system argues that since Foley’s parents allege federal civil rights violations, the proper venue is federal court.

The suit names both Blake and the 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 Foleys’ lawsuit, the alleged assaults only stopped when Parker Foley brought a knife to school and threatened his tormentor.

The school system said in court papers that it is not representing Blake, whose termination was announced April 6 by John Antonucci, Duxbury schools superintendent. Blake had been the varsity boys hockey coach at Duxbury High School for nearly two decades and a middle school teacher.

Blake was put on paid leave in November, one day after the Foleys contacted Duxbury police, schools officials said. Antonucci told The Boston Globe earlier this month that administrators have been on “high alert” regarding Blake since allegations about his behavior began to emerge in 2017.

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Duxbury police investigated the Foleys’ allegations but “ultimately found that charges could not be brought forward because the alleged victim in the case was deceased,” the department said.

In its newest legal filing, the schools identified 16 defenses against the lawsuit, including the Massachusetts Tort Claims act, which limits recovery against public agencies to $100,000 including legal fees and also prohibits punitive damages.

The school system also insists that the Foleys failed to “allege any unconstitutional policy, practice or custom on the part of the defendant.”

An attorney for the Foleys could not be reached to comment Monday.

The Foley’s lawsuit comes amid another scandal in Duxbury’s athletic programs, after Plymouth school officials reported hearing the Duxbury High football team using anti-Semitic language and references to a Nazi concentration camp to make calls on the field during a March 12 game.

Duxbury Public Schools hired an outside investigator to look into that incident and fired the program’s longtime head coach, who issued a statement apologizing for the use of the offensive language.

Globe correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.





John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.