MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey high school teacher accused of sexually assaulting three students has been charged with assaulting two more, officials said Friday.
Nicole Dufault, 35, of Caldwell was arrested late Wednesday and charged with sexually assaulting three students, acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray said. “With the charges authorized today, the number of victims rises to five. She is accused of multiple counts of first degree aggravated sexual assault and multiple counts of second degree endangering the welfare of a child. All five of the victims are 15-year-old boys who were students at Columbia High School.”
Dufault made her first court appearance Friday and entered a not guilty plea to the charges involving the original three victims. All of the incidents occurred during the regular school year and also during summer school in 2013 and 2014, prosecutors said.
Dufault has been a language arts teacher at Columbia High School in Maplewood for the past nine years. She is accused of having oral sex and intercourse with three 15-year-old students both on school property and in her car on multiple occasions, according to authorities.
The incidents occurred during the school year and during summer school in 2013 and 2014, prosecutors said.
There are reports that there is video evidence in the case, however the prosecutor’s office would neither confirm nor deny that, CBS 2’s Sonia Rincon reported.
The teacher will appear in court on the new charges sometime next week.
Dufault was being held at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark on $500,000 bail.
She was ordered to have no contact with any of the victims, authorities said.
Dufault is the mother of two boys ages 2 and 4 who are now in state custody, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported. Her husband moved out last year, Jiang reported.
In a letter to parents, South Orange/Maplewood Acting Supt. James G. Memoli and Columbia High School Principal Elizabeth Aaron said the school is taking precautions for students who might have been affected.
“The CHS administrative team, guidance counselors, student assistance counselors, school social workers and teachers are actively supporting students and staff impacted by events,” the letter said. “If your child is showing signs of stress in reaction to the events or the investigation, please reach out to his or her guidance counselor or a member of the administrative team.”
The letter said Aaron addressed the whole school and asked the school community to focus on teaching and learning despite the distraction. The principal refused to speak with CBS 2.
Parents were in shock after finding out about the alleged sexual misconduct.
“They do background checks on the teachers, so I don’t understand,” one parent said.
“They look up to the teachers, you know,” another parent said. “And you know, this is who’s supposed to protect them and guide them.”
“It’s crazy,” student Destiny Rios told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang. “The fact that was going on in our school just makes me think like ‘what other teachers are doing this?'”
Rios, a student in Dufault’s class this year is disgusted and disappointed in someone she trusted, Jiang reported. “She was just so nice,” said Rios.
One student told Jiang, “At the end of the day she was wrong. She knew what she was doing.”
Other students are defending Dufault and have started a social media campaign on Twitter, pleading #FreeMsDufault.
One student told Jiang he didn’t believe the accusations. “I think they’re fake because she’s not like that and she’s a hard-working person.”
Anyone with any information about this case is asked to contact the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit at (973) 753-1130.
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