Laffey, Bucci & Kent represent a woman who suffered traumatic abuse as a minor at the New Jersey private school; other victims urged to call hotline at 855.382.3385
PHILADELPHIA (January 24, 2023) – Laffey, Bucci & Kent, LLP today filed suit against Rutgers Preparatory School, the school’s former teachers and assistant coaches Matthew Rennie and Ranait Griff, and others in connection with the sexual abuse of a former student, who was then a minor.
Firm attorneys Brian Kent, Stewart Ryan and Alexandria MacMaster represent the female victim, “Mary Doe,” who was enrolled at the private school from 2018 to 2021. The complaint alleges that Rutgers Prep and all defendants negligently failed to protect the minor student, and knew, or should have known, of Rennie’s unlawful, harmful, and offensive sexual conduct with the minor and did nothing to stop it.
“Defendant Matthew Rennie had access to countless children during his tenure working as a teacher and assistant coach with Rutgers Prep,” said Kent. “Rutgers Prep was aware of the inappropriate relationships fostered at the school, including between Rennie and our client, and allowed a toxic culture to bloom between students, teachers, and coaches by failing to supervise its staff or respond to student complaints. To add insult to Mary Doe’s injury, Coach Griff knew of Rennie’s conduct, and actively encouraged Mary Doe to engage in physical, sexual activity with Rennie. The defendants’ collective failure to act to protect Mary Doe and other students at Rutgers Prep is grossly negligent.”
The complaint alleges that the defendants caused the victim to experience extreme emotional distress, loss of earnings, services, companionship, and contribution. It further alleges violations of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Breach of Contract, Assault & Battery, and Failure to Rescue.
“We encourage anyone who may have experienced inappropriate conduct or sexual abuse by Rennie or Griff, or sexual abuse by any other employee of Rutgers Prep to come forward,” said Kent. “The school must be held accountable for its negligence and the harm it has caused Mary Doe and anyone else who may have been harmed.”
The complaint alleges a culture of permissive and inappropriate conduct between students and Rutgers Prep coaching staff. After being recruited to attend Rutgers Prep due to her athletic abilities, Mary Doe began her freshman year in 2018. In 2019, she confided in Rennie about the emotional abuse she received from other Rutgers Prep coaches. As a graduate of Rutgers Prep himself, Rennie was familiar with Rutgers Prep’s history of fostering a negative environment for female athletes. This began a period of grooming via text messages between Rennie and Mary Doe. Rutgers Prep administrators knew students communicated with coaches via cell phone and did nothing to stop the practice. Rennie began to eat lunch daily with Mary Doe, and by 2020, he was having daily conversations and text messages with her. As he continued to groom her, Mary Doe began to describe Rennie as her “best friend.”
As alleged in the complaint, by March 8, 2021, Griff was aware of the conduct between Rennie and Mary Doe after hearing Rennie say that he loved the minor-student and read text messages exchanged between the two. Griff asked Mary Doe how “she felt about the situation” and discussed it with her, telling Mary Doe she thought she and Rennie were “seriously adorable” and “when do you think it’s going to start being physical?” Instead of reporting Rennie’s abuse as she was required to, Griff asked Mary Doe if she could “handle” being physical with Rennie and actively encouraged the abuse.
The complaint further alleges that in 2020-2021, during COVID, when most students were learning from home every other week, Mary Doe was allowed to come to school every day, and she spent much of that time alone with Rennie. During this time and on many other occasions throughout 2021, teachers, staff and custodians observed inappropriate conduct and behavior between Mary Doe and Rennie and did not report, question, or raise any alarm. Furthermore, the school has cameras throughout the campus, including one directly in front of Rennie’s classroom, where the two spent much of their time. The school took no action to stop Rennie’s conduct, which swiftly moved from journaling with Mary Doe to kissing her and other sexual conduct.
Anyone who experienced or is aware of improper conduct by Rennie, Griff, or others at Rutgers Prep are urged to call a hotline established at 855.382.3385. For additional information, contact Kent, Stewart or MacMaster at 855.382.3385, or email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
About Laffey, Bucci & Kent, LLP
The law firm was founded in 2009 by Jeff Laffey, Paul Bucci & Brian Kent. Each attorney brings a wealth of trial experience to the firm. Combined, attorneys at the firm have over 50 years of experience and have obtained over $500 million for their clients. In addition to crime victim injury cases, the firm handles a variety of personal injury matters including work injuries, construction accidents, defective product injuries, auto injuries and more.