Dartmouth School Counselor Claims Sexual Harassment in Lawsuit
DARTMOUTH — A counselor at Dartmouth High School is alleging sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation by school officials in a lawsuit filed last week in Bristol Superior Court.
Melissa Fitzgerald claims in the suit that starting in 2019, she was sexually harassed by then-Assistant Principal Richard Gill.
She further alleges that after filing a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination regarding the purported sexual harassment, she experienced discrimination and retaliation from school officials.
Fitzgerald names Dartmouth Public Schools, then-Principal Ross Thibault, and Gill in the Jan. 12 complaint.
The Westport resident has worked for Dartmouth Public Schools since 2014.
In the lawsuit, Fitzgerald's attorney Scott Lang details the allegations of sexual harassment against Gill.
The assistant principal allegedly hit on Fitzgerald when they first met in 2019.
He also purportedly continued a pattern of inappropriate behavior — including allegedly barging in on Fitgerald's student meetings and pestering a coworker for her personal phone number — for over a year.
According to the complaint, then-principal Thibault "was aware that Ms. Fitzgerald and several other female employees" had experienced sexual harassment from Gill, but allegedly "took no action regarding the hostile work environment."
An investigation by the district later found that the sexual harassment "was likely to have occurred," the lawsuit claims.
Following a complaint filed with MCAD, the state's anti-discrimination commission, Fitzgerald alleges school officials retaliated against her.
The lawsuit alleges officials withheld important information about Fitzgerald's students, repeatedly interrupted her student meetings, and "falsely and bizarrely" accused her of actions like sending a student to the guidance office for a muffin.
They also allegedly gave her the highest caseload of all counselors at the school — nearly 20 more students than the counselor with the lowest caseload — before revising the loads to a more balanced number, according to the suit.
Dartmouth Public Schools administrator Kate Genthner said district officials could not comment on pending litigation.
She did state that Richard Gill no longer works for Dartmouth Public Schools, and confirmed that Fitzgerald is still employed by the district.
Gill previously made headlines in 2021 when he trained his dog Augie to act as a school therapy dog.