Dufault has been charged in connection with two more students. Read our update of this story as of Friday, Sept. 19, 4:56 p.m. here.
6:23 p.m.: This article was updated with a comment from Maplewood Police Chief Robert Cimino.
Nicole Dufault, 34, a language arts teacher at Columbia High School in Maplewood, has been arrested and charged with sexually assaulting three students.
Dufault, who has been employed at the school for approximately 9 years, is accused of having oral sex and vaginal intercourse with the students on school property and in her car on multiple occasions.
According to Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Maplewood Police Chief Robert J. Cimino, Dufault was arrested last night at her home. She was charged yesterday with multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
Acting Superintendent Jim Memoli and CHS Principal Elizabeth Aaron released a statement this afternoon informing parents of the situation (full statement below).
All of the alleged victims were 15-year-old boys attending Columbia High School. The incidents allegedly occurred during the regular school year and also during summer school in 2013 and 2014, according to the release from the Prosecutor’s Office.
Dufault is currently being held at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark on $500,000 bail. She has been ordered to have no contact with any of the alleged victims. Dufault has two minor children who have been removed from her custody.
The investigation, which is active and ongoing, was conducted by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit and the Maplewood Police Department. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit at 973-753-1130.
“Our detectives are assisting the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, and it is now at the point where we leave it to them to control what is released to the public,” Chief Cimino told the Village Green in a phone interview.
“As the investigation is still active…ongoing further details of the investigation cannot be released,” Cimino said in a follow-up email. “However, I do thank Acting Prosecutor Murray, Chief Ambrose and their staff for quickly providing support from their office to move the investigation to the point where an arrest could be made. I also want to commend the Maplewood Police Detectives for their work on the investigation and the Board of Education for their cooperation in the investigation.”
Counseling and other assistance will be available to students through the South Orange/Maplewood School District.
Some students are discussing the arrest on Twitter, under the hashtag #FreeMsDufault.
Aaron announced over the loudspeaker to students Thursday morning that CHS would be in the news soon and urged students not to spread rumors, according to one high school student. Aaron said her four least favorite words are “I heard someone say” and “I heard a rumor.” She told students while there might be media around the school, reporters are not allowed to approach students on school grounds and students do not have to talk to media if they do not want to, the student said.
Other students confirmed there is yellow tape inside Dufault’s former classroom.
The following statement was released by South Orange-Maplewood School District Acting Superintendent Jim Memoli and CHS Principal Elizabeth Aaron to parents and media at 4:40 p.m. Village Green will update this story as more information becomes available.
A teacher at Columbia High School has been arrested in response to allegations of having victimized students. A comprehensive investigation by multiple law enforcement and other state agencies is ongoing. Columbia High School and district staff are cooperating fully with these investigations.
The CHS administrative team, guidance counselors, student assistance counselors, school social workers, and teachers are actively supporting students and staff impacted by events. 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.
We ask the community to remember that discussion of the allegations may compromise the ongoing investigations. We will therefore be unable to comment on these matters.
Our primary focus remains on the health, safety, and well-being of our students and staff. This morning, Principal Elizabeth Aaron addressed the full school and asked the CHS community to stay focused on the important work of teaching and learning, throughout any distractions that may arise from the investigations.
Times of crises present opportunities to strengthen the fabric of our community, and to work together to ensure that all members feel safe, supported, and united in mutual respect and thoughtful action. We appreciate the partnership of our families, students, and staff as we support the growth and development of all students.