Ashley Zhang, Editor-in-Chief
In October 2017, Dartmouth Middle School music director Samuel Neipp was arrested on charges of sexual abuse and blackmail of at least two underage students, both of whom remain unnamed and are referred to as Jane Doe I and II, over the course of several years.
His popularity with the student and parent populations of Dartmouth were, investigators claimed, “part of his grooming process.” Although the relations may not have necessarily been forceful, the age of the victims–Neipp was 34 years old at the time he began sexual relations with his victims–meant an imbalance of authority within the relationships, making them coercive at the very least.
One of the victims is currently filing a lawsuit against the Campbell Union School District. During the time in question, the district allegedly had knowledge that Neipp was inappropriately contacting female students via text, yet did not take any direct action and only warned him to stop. After being notified of some of Neipp’s operations, the district had hired a private investigator to look into his actions but did not contact the police with their concerns; the district intended to keep quiet about his actions. The lawsuit maintains that the lack of attention the district drew to the issue and its tacit allowance led to an aggravation of Neipp’s actions. Even after being warned, Neipp continued to send hundreds of messages to students.
The court order is intended to limit student-teacher interactions, such as preventing a student and teacher from being alone in each other’s presence outside of counseling sessions, for which they need permission, and stopping teachers from sending text messages to their students. Teachers will be required to email their students with their school accounts, along with sending a copy of the messages to their parents. In addition, the doors to classrooms will be unable to be locked from the inside, although this point has raised concerns with those wary of school shootings or other campus incidents. The plaintiff attorney rebuts that sexual abuse in schools is much more common than school shootings.
Neipp is currently being held in Elmwood Men’s Jail on a bail of more than $2.3 million, potentially facing a jail sentence of 100 years to life.