Former Redwood High student files lawsuit alleging school covered up teacher abuse

When the Redwood High School principal learned that one of her teachers had allegedly kissed her student and the underage teen’s mother witnessed it, she held a meeting. Nancy Neu told the parents “this happens all the time,” and she let the student return to the class to finish the year, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Marin County Superior Court.

But Neu did not report the suspected abuse to police, as is required by a mandated reporter, and the abuse only got worse, the former student alleges. Now 38, the woman, inspired by a former Branson High School sex abuse victim featured in a 2021 Chronicle article, has sued the Tamalpais Union High School District alleging negligence, infliction of emotional distress, sexual harassment and other charges.

“That hourlong meeting would reverberate for years,” the woman, identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, said in a phone interview. She is now married and living in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“It took me so long to realize I’m worth more,” she said.

A call and emails to Neu were not returned, and current Tamalpais Union Superintendent Tara Taupier told The Chronicle she could not comment. Neu is named in the lawsuit but not as a defendant, and the suit does not name the teacher. Attorney Marc Lewis, who represents Jane Doe, said his client “is prohibited from disclosing the identity of her abuser.” Lewis said there was a “recent law enforcement investigation but it appears to be closed.”

“From the moment that our client’s father made a complaint to Ms. Neu, the school and the district did all they could to sweep this matter under the rug,” Lewis said. “They completely failed to take responsibility and protect one of their students from a known abuser and chose to cover up the abuse instead.”

The grooming began for Jane Doe in the fall of 1999 at the start of her junior year, she alleges. She was 16 years old.

To maximize the time between the pair, the teacher would keep her student after class. The instructor joined her student’s local climbing gym where the teen worked. On weekend nights, the pair would meet at a local cafe.

“I was a shy kid with not a lot of friends and it made me feel very special,” Jane Doe said.

A woman suing the Tamalpais Union High School District in Marin County holds climbing equipment that she says she has abandoned after a high school teacher ruined the recreation for her. The woman, who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., says she was repeatedly raped by the teacher and the school covered it up.

Natalie Keyssar/Special to The Chronicle

The woman began calling her student at home, telling her she was having marital problems with her husband. They socialized in the hallways, courtyards and classroom on campus every day, according to the suit.

Jane Doe alleges their “relationship” became widely known at school among students and faculty, as rumors swirled, but nothing was done. The teacher booked a trip to Lake Tahoe for the pair, according to the suit, and Jane Doe said she was surprised to find a single bed in their hotel room. When they returned home, the teacher emailed the girl and professed her love, Jane Doe recalled.

She kissed Jane Doe for the first time the winter of her senior year in a San Rafael climbing gym parking lot in the teacher’s dingy sedan with a vanilla-scented air freshener, according to the suit and the former student. To this day, the smell makes her cringe. As does the Janis Joplin album the teacher would play, she said.

“Teacher then began raping Plaintiff on a regular basis,” according to the suit. The abuse lasted over two years and involved “hundreds of separate assaults.”

One night in January 2001, during the girl’s senior year, the teacher dropped her off at her house and the girl’s mother caught them kissing in the car, according to the suit. The next morning the girl left for a school-sponsored field trip to Washington. While away, the girl’s father called Neu.

“It was not until he left an explicit voicemail for Ms. Neu, saying that there was a predator at Redwood, that Ms. Neu returned his call,” the suit alleges.

Meanwhile, the teacher found out where the girl was staying on her trip and began calling her hotel. Jane Doe said she’d whisper into the phone underneath the hotel room desk. If anyone caught her on the phone, the teacher told her to say she was speaking to her aunt, according to the suit.

“I didn’t know how to say no, even though it was causing me unbelievable stress,” Jane Doe said. At one point during the trip, she recalled, she stood next to her trusted swim coach in the elevator, but she couldn’t bring herself to confide in her.

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