Former Peabody gym teacher accused of assaulting students – Itemlive – Daily Item

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PEABODY — A former Peabody gym teacher allegedly sexually abused at least 13 male students over the course of his more than three-decade-long tenure in the school district, according to a lawsuit filed in Middlesex Superior Court. 
The suit, filed by Boston Attorneys Carmen Durso and Michael Heineman Tuesday, names James Toltz, now 80, and the City of Peabody as defendants. Toltz is accused of sexual abuse while the City is accused of negligence in “failing to train, supervise, and discipline Toltz, over a period of 34 years, during which time Toltz sexually abused in excess of 13 minor students in Massachusetts.”
Durso, in a telephone interview Wednesday evening, said his clients filed the class action suit in an effort to urge more of Toltz’s alleged victims to come forward. 
“They’re confident that a lot of their classmates have never had the opportunity to talk about this with anybody and they want to give them that opportunity,” Durso said. “What my clients hope is they will hear from other people who were sexually abused by [Toltz].”
The 120-count suit alleges that Toltz sexually abused the students, who ranged in age from 11 to 16 at the time of the alleged assaults, at both the Higgins Middle School and the John F. Kennedy Jr. Junior High school. He allegedly used his position as a gym teacher as a “means to groom students whom he wished to sexually abuse,” according to the suit. 
He is accused of watching young boys while they showered, inappropriate touching, spanking and fondling, offering drugs to the students, conducting genital examinations under false pretenses, and sexual assault. The suit alleges that Toltz developed a reputation as an abuser amongst students that “any supervisory personnel would have been aware of.”
Durso said the allegations against Toltz are so numerous and span so many years that the city and its schools “had to be aware of this [behavior].”
“It was so frequent that the school couldn’t help but know about this,” Durso said. “You don’t get to do this stuff for this many years without someone being aware that there’s some problem somewhere.”
A request for comment sent to Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr.’s office was not returned.
The number of students abused by Toltz may be as high as 150, according to the lawsuit. 
Durso said the statute of limitations on the victims’ accusations has not yet passed. According to Durso, if a person was sexually abused as a minor they have until age 53 to file suit. If victims are older than 53, they have seven years after they came to understand that they were abused. 
Of the 13 men accusing Toltz of assault, six are under 53, while the other seven didn’t realize the truth of their experiences until 2019, Durso said.
Durso said one of the victims, who are listed only as John Does in the suit, sees the suit as a way to rectify the guilt they feel for not coming forward sooner. 
The suit demands a jury trial and seeks an unspecified amount of damages. It was not clear if Toltz had hired an attorney. 
Charlie McKenna can be reached at
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