After news broke that a 17-year-old student and his teacher engaged in a sexual relationship at a prestigious private school, parents and alumni expressed shock and outrage. Now reports suggest that the school knew about the relationship and that a guidance counselor even encouraged it. Now the boy is suing the school.
The Brentwood School in Los Angeles draws an affluent student body. Many of the alumni have become famous in Hollywood. That hasn’t helped keep news of “John Doe’s” relationship with his teacher, Dr. Aimee Palmitessa, quiet.
Palmitessa taught chemistry at the school. “Multiple school employees are said to have known about Palmitessa’s alleged abuse of power in its earliest stages,” The Daily Mail writes, “but rather than report it as required by law, instead told her to ‘stay away’ from the teen.”
Doe’s lawsuit seeks damages for sexual battery, fraud and negligence.
The relationship occurred during the summer of 2017. By September, Palmitessa was in court. She pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of sexual assault. Doe, though, produced text messages, videos, and photos that corroborate his allegations.
He was discovered at Palmitessa’s house by his father. Doe was supposed to have been at football practice, but his father used a tracking program to find Doe’s phone.
“Palmitessa was then recorded on phone calls begging the student not to share the details of their encounters, threatening him and talking about their sexual interactions,” DM adds.
The Brentwood school has released a statement:
August 6, 2018
On August 18 of last year, the Los Angeles Police Department informed Brentwood School that Upper School teacher, Dr. Aimee Palmitessa, had been arrested on suspicion of inappropriate relations with a student. We immediately placed Dr. Palmitessa on administrative leave and subsequently confirmed that she would not return to school.
We took these shocking and distressing allegations seriously, cooperating fully with investigators at the Los Angeles Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office. We care deeply about our students and all aspects of their well-being, individually and collectively. To that end, we worked closely with faculty and counselors to support our students, offered families resources as they helped their children navigate their reactions to the news, made special accommodations for the family involved, and communicated updates to our entire school community.
In September, Brentwood School retained Julie Yanow to conduct an internal investigation, separate from the police investigation. The information gathered by Ms. Yanow was helpful to the school’s decision making process and resulted in the school separating Dr. Palmitessa. It also led to enhanced communication of the school’s clearly articulated policies about boundaries and behavior as well as additional faculty/staff training.
The criminal proceedings against Dr. Palmitessa are still ongoing. However, the family has now filed a civil suit against the School and we are in the process of evaluating it. The School’s legal counsel will respond as appropriate. Despite the litigation, we sympathize with the student and family for the pain this situation has caused them. We remain committed to all of our students and to respecting their privacy. We ask that you do the same.
Dr. Mike Riera, Head of School
The most shocking part of this, the latest in a never-ending line of abuses of power, is the suggestion that a guidance counselor encouraged the relationship.
The lawsuit claims that Doe was seen seen with Palmitessa on school grounds in what was a minor, but public, display of affection. After that, Doe asked school counselor Robert Jost what he should do.
“Remarkably, Mr. Jost counseled John Doe by encouraging the relationship,” the lawsuit claims. Jost even cited the relationship of French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte. She is 24 years older than Macron, and was once his teacher.
“Mr. Jost’s advice indelibly changed the course of John Doe’s life,” the suit argues.