A former student in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school system is suing the district, almost 30 years after alleged sexual abuse took place.
Darren Ernest Telford, 32, filed a civil statement of claim against School District 42 and principal “John Doe” in June of 2016.
The claim names Joseph Duff, now deceased, alleging he was involved in arranging and participating in various games and sports for students at Glenwood elementary in Maple Ridge.
The claim says the district “allowed the now deceased, Mr. Duff to be in charge of Fair Play games and other activities.”
The district disputes that allegation.
Over a period from 1991 to 1993, when the plaintiff was aged 5-7, Duff committed various sexual acts upon Telford, which included touching his genitals and other sexual acts, according to the filed court documents.
“The sexual assaults by the Mr. Duff upon the plaintiff took place at Glenwood Elementary School,” indicates the claim. “In or about 1991, the plaintiff’s family reported these sexual abuses by Mr. Duff to the school.
“Mr. Duff thereafter continued to supervise and partake in Fair Play games and other activities in the school, and the plaintiff continued to suffer from sexual abuse.”
RCMP investigated the complaints in 1991.
Telford’s family was forced to move out of the area, and he attended another school “after the school failed to protect the plaintiff,” alleges the claim.
“The defendant’s school board and principal were aware of the abuse that was occurring by Mr. Duff but failed to intervene to and stop it from continuing,” the lawsuit states.
The principal at the time was George Sakora, who is now deceased, according to court documents.
“In or about 2000 or 2001, RCMP officers visited the plaintiff and informed him about sexual abuse allegations made by other children against Mr. Duff,” states the claim.
Telford claimed to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, flashbacks, sleep disorders, an impaired ability to sustain intimate relationships and other injuries.
In its response to the claim, the school board denied the alleged sex assaults took place on school district property.
“Joseph Duff was at no time employed by the defendant School District nor was he at any time volunteering or involved in supervising children at any school district facility on behalf of or with the knowledge of the school district or any of its staff,” according to the statement of defence.
“He was not involved at any time in arranging any games or activities for students of Glenwood Elementary school or in any way involved in supervising students at any time.”
It also denied the district or any of its employees were advised of any alleged sexual abuse committed by Duff.
Court documents filed by the defendant indicate Duff was a neighbour who shared a property line with Glenwood elementary.
In 1991, the RCMP conducted an investigation into allegations of sexual touching at Duff’s home, prior to the plaintiff beginning school, says the defence.
It said police interviewed the plaintiff and his mother Loretta, who is also now deceased.
“The 1991 investigation was reopened in 1999 as a result of allegations by other children of sexual touching by Mr. Duff in the neighbourhood or at his home,” state the defence documents.
“As a result, further interviews of the plaintiff, his mother and an interview of the plaintiff’s brother, Matthew Telford, were conducted.”
There is no reference in the RCMP files to any sexual abuse of the plaintiff occurring at the school, or after 1991, says the defence statement.
According to court documents, “In 1999, Mr. Duff was criminally charged with sexually abusing several other children in the neighbourhood surrounding Glenwood Elementary School. He is now deceased.”
The outcome of those charges, which were in process at the now defunct Maple Ridge Provincial Court, are not available online, and the Port Coquitlam court registry is checking at the request of The News.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The civil case is scheduled to be heard over 15 days next month, beginning April 16, in Supreme Court in Vancouver.