COHASSET, Mass. — A former Cohasset middle school teacher accused of assaulting two students pleaded not guilty to additional charges while in court on Wednesday.
Jeffrey Knight, 57, walked into Quincy District Court with his family by his side. He is facing five additional charges of indecent assault and battery on a child, which are related to allegations made by a second girl in one of his classes a couple of years ago.
"It happened in such a way that while he was instructing the class, he was simultaneously rubbing up against the student," prosecutor Emily Nesson told the court.
The new charges stem from an investigation by Cohasset Police involving an alleged second victim.
According to court documents, one young girl told police that Knight "was aroused and pressing up against her” and “He would also look down her shirt and brush by her rear-end and breasts with his hand” while helping her with a class project. Knight is also accused of telling a girl who was wearing leggings that “Her legs look really good."
Defense attorney Eric Goldman, who is representing Knight, said the case is difficult to prove.
"It's extremely difficult because it's 'He said/she said' and the facts will have to come out in the courthouse but it is very difficult," Goldman said. "It's very embarrassing to the family. It's obvious impacted his life."
Knight earlier pleaded not guilty to two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or over at his arraignment in September.
Parents shared their frustrations with Boston 25 News after learning of the new allegations against Knight.
Documents from the state's Department of Children and Families obtained by Boston 25 News show that the state recently found claims of sexual abuse by Knight and neglect by a school official regarding the Cohasset matter.
Frustrated parents said more information about a teacher's disciplinary history needs to be made public.
"If there were any incidents in the past, I think parents should know about that before starting at their child's schools," said Torrie Hargreaves.
"It’s not right. I mean, how many times do you have to go through something like this?" Nancy Finn said.
Knight, a former STEM teacher at Cohasset Middle School was placed on leave when allegations came to light. Officials say he has since resigned from the district.
Cohasset Superintendent of Schools Louise Demas released a statement following the new charges:
"My office has cooperated fully with the Cohasset Police Department and Norfolk District Attorney's Office.
The Cohasset Public Schools is finalizing a Title IX investigation into this matter and has retained the services of an independent consultant to conduct an administrative review of this situation and provide a set of recommendations for moving forward.
I am shocked and profoundly disturbed by the allegations against Knight, who was employed in Cohasset since 2011. I have held a public forum with the community and have committed myself and all Cohasset Public Schools administrators to being responsive to all faculty, staff, student and family concerns regarding this matter. The school district also recently convened a family-faculty Safe Schools Committee. We are at the beginning of a long process that will not be completed until all parties have all the relevant answers.
We have made resources available and have added counselors at the middle and high schools to assist students with questions or concerns. I emphatically support any student who comes forward, and it is my sincere hope that any member of our school community feels comfortable reporting something that they feel is not right."
But how the school handled the first complaint has parents puzzled and upset.
According to police, the first alleged victim, a 13-year-old student, told school officials about problems with Knight back in February. Police did not hear about this complaint until May, when a school resource officer overheard and brought it to the department's attention.
"It’s just, it’s wrong!" Finn said. "Why are people waiting? There should be a no … it’s just not even a one-strike situation. As soon as you hear something, something should be done about it."
Knight is due back in court on Jan. 30.
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