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Lawsuit accuses Peabody gym teacher of sexual abuse of students over decades

The suit lists 120 counts of sexual abuse and negligence, demands a jury trial, and seeks an unspecified amount in damages for severe emotional and physical distress.


Thirteen former students who attended two Peabody middle schools over past decades have filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that a gym teacher watched them shower, spanked, fondled, and sexually assaulted them, and offered some of them narcotics, starting when they were as young as 11.

The 45-page complaint lists the victims as John Does, but was filed on behalf of all minor students taught or coached by James Toltz during his employment at Higgins Middle School and John F. Kennedy Junior High School, from 1969 to 1996. The complaint, filed Tuesday in Middlesex Superior Court, alleges that Toltz had developed a reputation as an abuser among students and could have sexually abused as many as 150 students while working as a teacher. The lawsuit names both Toltz and the City of Peabody as defendants.

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“Toltz used his position as a means to groom students whom he wished to sexually abuse,” the lawsuit said. It alleges that some of the abuse continued into adulthood. It was not immediately known if Toltz, 80, who now lives in Winter Garden, Fla., has hired a lawyer. A phone message left with a listing for Toltz was not immediately returned.

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