AUBURN —The mother of a student at a Freeport private school who was sexually assaulted by a teacher in 2018 is suing the school and its religious organization.

Derek Michael Boyce Androscoggin County Jail

Derek Michael Boyce of Woolwich was 37 years old when he was sentenced in January 2019 to serve eight years of a 13-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to 10 felony sex charges involving a 15-year-old girl.

The former teacher at Pine Tree Academy in Freeport, a Seventh-Day Adventist school, had a sustained sexual relationship with the teenager for months, prosecutors said at his sentencing.

In the lawsuit, filed last month in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn by Lewiston attorney Michael T. Bigos, the mother and daughter plaintiffs are referred to only by their initials, pseudonyms allowed by the court to protect them from “unwanted and unnecessary re-injury by publicity and public access to details” of the case, according to court papers.

Besides the school, the mother also is suing Northern New England Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists Inc., a nonprofit corporation in Maine that owns and operates the school and coordinates with the school to operate summer camps and other youth programming for children who include the school’s students, according to the civil complaint.

The plaintiffs are suing for sexual assault, negligence and negligent supervision. The complaint doesn’t specify a dollar amount of damages being sought.

A lawyer representing the school and the religious group has answered the lawsuit with denials of any wrongdoing.

The plaintiff’s daughter was enrolled at the school during the 2017-18 school year. The school and its religious affiliate conditioned the student to trust Boyce and comply with his direction, or “grooming” behavior as her teacher and camp counselor, the complaint said.

“The grooming resulted in or led to Boyce’s sexual abuse” of the student, the complaint said.

In May 2018, when the student was 15 years old, Boyce “engaged in sexual acts and had sexual contact with (the student) on numerous occasions over the span of nine months,” according to the complaint.

Those acts included sexual intercourse, touching of genitals and oral sex, the complaint said.

The abuse happened, in part, at the school and at the religious organization’s summer camp in Weld, the complaint said.

“Boyce’s sexual abuse of (the student) resulted from a progressive series of actions that began with and continued to involve Boyce’s performance of the ordinary and authorized duties of a teacher and camp counselor and the abuse occurred as a result of Boyce’s authorized interactions with (the student) by virtue of his official position as agent for defendants,” the complaint said.

In that capacity, Boyce “befriended (the student) and gained (her) trust and confidence as a moral guide and mentor,” Bigos wrote in the complaint. Boyce used that trust and position of authority to leverage time alone with the teen, according to the complaint. As a result of Boyce’s sexual abuse, the teen “has suffered severe and debilitating emotional injury, pain and suffering, physical and emotional trauma and permanent psychological damage.”

In its response to the complaint, through Portland attorney Frederick C. Moore, the school and religious group denied that Boyce had been a camp counselor.

The defendants “admit that some students may trust and have confidence in particular teachers” at Pine Tree Academy, but claimed they didn’t know whether Boyce would have been in a position of trust and confidence with students as a part of his duties as a teacher at the school.

In answer to the complaint, Moore wrote: “Derek Boyce’s abuse of (the student) was not even conceivably within the scope of any of his employment, nor was it even remotely within his actual or apparent authority as an employee of the defendants.”

Moreover, Moore wrote that, “according to police reports, the sexual abuse began and substantially all occurred over summer vacation when Derek Boyce was not an employee and not subject to defendants’ supervision or control and not on defendants’ property.”

Moore wrote that employers can’t be held responsible for crimes committed by their workers outside the scope of their authority “with very narrow exceptions not present in the case under criteria laid down by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court.”

The student “lacked the ‘special relationship’ with the defendants required” by the state’s highest court “as a prerequisite to liability of defendants for the unauthorized sexual abuse by Derek Boyce,” Moore wrote.

Boyce’s prior record “provided absolutely no indication that he was likely to be a sexual predator, nor were defendants aware of any readily apparent predatory behavior,” Moore wrote.

In a police affidavit, the girl’s mother had told investigators she had previously believed that Boyce, who had been the girl’s math teacher, may have had an inappropriate relationship with the teen and had been spending too much time alone with her.

At Boyce’s sentencing in Androscoggin County Superior Court in 2019, his former student read from a prepared statement, saying, “You made me feel so special” and “I trusted you.” But, she concluded: “You never loved me. I never meant anything to you.”

Because Pine Tree Academy isn’t incorporated, it can’t be sued, Moore wrote in his answer to the complaint.

Prosecutors in the criminal case against Boyce said the mother of the student came home one night to find her daughter naked and engaged in a sex act with Boyce in a dimly lit living room. The mother called police. The girl told her mother she had had sexual intercourse with Boyce before.

Boyce told police his relationship began with the girl after she sustained a sports injury and had been depressed. They communicated over social media messaging applications.

The relationship became romantic in May, then turned sexual in July, he told police. They met in a park where they engaged in sex acts, Boyce said. They had sexual intercourse twice, he said.

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