A nursing student from Standish has won a $300,000 award from a jury in a lawsuit she filed against a nursing school that expelled her from its program in 2008 — after she complained repeatedly of sexual harassment by one of its male instructors.

The InterCoast Career Institute, a California-based school that operated a nursing program in South Portland, dismissed Aimee Helwig in October 2008, after about nine months of study, for violating the “InterCoast Practical Nursing Code of Conduct.”

In a complaint filed in Cumberland County Superior Court, Helwig contended that she had not violated the code and that the school expelled and discriminated against her because she had accused her instructor, David Martin, of sexual harassment.

The school expelled Helwig about a week after it was notified that she had filed a complaint about Martin and the school with the Maine Human Rights Commission.

Helwig sued the school for maintaining a hostile work environment, thereby breaching the tuition contract, and for retaliating against her with libelous statements and unwarranted expulsion after she filed the human rights complaint.

The civil court jury last week awarded her $100,000 on the claim for retaliation, $150,000 for the inconvenience and emotional distress caused, $30,000 for punitive damages and $20,000 in tuition reimbursement for the breach of contract.

Helwig could not be reached for comment Friday.

According to court documents, Martin continually asked Helwig invasive questions, touched her inappropriately and made suggestive remarks. When she rebuked him, he began giving her low grades and unflattering write-ups.

The school did not remove the poor marks and evaluations from Helwig’s record despite Helwig’s reports to the school about Martin’s behavior, the lawsuit contends.

Other students in Helwig’s class reported harassment. Lisa Green wrote on a teacher evaluation that Martin had made comments about her and another student, saying “Why don’t you sit on her lap?” and “I want you two making out by the end of the day,” according to court records.

Helwig claimed that the school did not take sufficient action against Martin and that he continued to act aggressively toward her.

The school dismissed Martin in August 2008 on the grounds that it no longer had a position for him, court records show. However, Martin still worked at the same clinical facility as Helwig during the fall.

The school later transferred Helwig to a different location, after which Martin began making critical public statements about her, according to court records.

School officials declined to comment Friday on the jury’s award to Helwig.

 

Staff Writer Sophie Gould can be contacted at 791-6354 or at:

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