Woman Sues Vestal Central School District Claiming Sexual Assault
A Texas woman who says she was sexually assaulted by a Vestal High School teacher when she was his student is suing the Vestal Central School District and teacher Robert Carr.
The suit was filed in Broome County Supreme Court on November 22, 2023, under the NYS Adult Survivors Act (ASA) two days before the law expired. The law created a one-year window for survivors of sexual assault who are 18 years or older to sue their abusers regardless of when the abuse occurred.
Joanna Hallett, who currently lives in Texas, alleges Robert Carr, her former economics teacher, groomed and sexually assaulted her during the 2001-2002 school year. She is suing Carr for sexual assault and sexual battery.
The suit goes on to say that Vestal High School administrators were reportedly made aware of the inappropriate relationship but failed to protect Hallett or take any actions against Carr. Hallett is suing the district for negligence and negligence in retaining, hiring and supervising its employees.
The Vestal Central School District said the following in a statement:
"Earlier today, Vestal Central School District received an email from a local media station with information that an allegation of sexual misconduct had been filed by a former student. The District has not been served with legal documents at this time. The District takes every precaution to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Following the District’s usual procedures during a legal investigation, staff member(s) are placed on administrative leave pending investigation, and that is the case in this situation."
According to the complaint, Hallett was 17 when she began attending Vestal High School as a senior. Hallett alleges Carr began grooming behavior and special treatment in the fall of 2001.
The court document says Carr overheard Hallett discussing her phone number to fellow students during “open gym” when he was supervising and that shortly after he called and asked her to meet at a gas station and diner.
“Plaintiff was confused but still trying to make friends in the District, she wanted to be accepted and joined Carr.”
The suit alleges that after the pair developed a friendship, Carr showed Hallett special attention, including moving her into IB Economics, “a full-year course so she would remain a student of Carr,” and waiting for her outside of play practice “when the practice would end, in front of the designated advisors and other students, Carr would walk plaintiff to her vehicle or his and the two would openly sit in cars and talk.”
In her complaint, Hallett says the relationship became physical in the winter of 2001 when Carr kissed Hallett in the school parking lot.
She alleges Carr began forcing her to have non-consensual intercourse after she turned 18 in April 2002.
The suit outlines a timeline of the alleged events:
- Carr allegedly began writing notes complimenting her on her appearance and suggesting the two engage in sexual acts.
- In May, Carr allegedly began groping Hallett “Carr forcibly touched and attempted and/or threatened to touch Plaintiff’s intimate areas and/or touch her with his own intimate body parts, including but not limited to Plaintiff’s breasts and vagina with his own hands, mouth and penis.”
- Also in May, when the plaintiff was dating another student, Carr and the plaintiff’s boyfriend got into a dispute "where the two almost got into a physical altercation at lunch on the Premises of the School."
- In or around May 2002, Carr allegedly met the student in a school stairwell where he kissed Plaintiff on at least a dozen occasions.
- Hallett alleges Carr catcalled her in the hallways in front of students and staff, and says no action was taken by school administrators.
- At some point in May or June, Carr allegedly began driving Hallett to his home during a lunch break to have unwanted sexual intercourse.
- Hallett says Carr drove her off school property and sexually assaulted her numerous times.
Accusations Against Vestal Central School:
At some point, parents reportedly became aware of the inappropriate relationship and notified Vestal High School administration but no action was taken, according to the suit.
Hallett alleges Carr had a history of sexual misconduct with females students and claims the district was aware of it.
“Upon information and belief, the Defendant was aware of Carr’s propensity to engage inappropriate sexual relationships with female students prior to Carr’s sexual abuse and assault of Plaintiff.”
Hallett says the unwanted contact from Carr only ended after the plaintiff moved and changed her phone numbers.
She is seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages against the Vestal Central School District and Robert Carr.
"Ms. Hallett is grateful to be able to seek justice and looks forward to her day in Court," said Hallett's attorney Hillary Nappi of Hach Rose Schirripa & Cheverie in NYC.