Can a staff psychologist at an elite private school have an affair with the mother of a student? Even if he's responsible for providing counseling to the student?
Those questions are at the heart of a lawsuit filed by the father of an unnamed Kindergarten student at D.C.'s Sidwell Friends School. In the May 12 filing, Arthur G. Newmyer charges school authorities with negligence and other forms of misconduct because they allegedly did "nothing to stop" the psychologist's "egregious conduct" for more than a year. Newmyer alleges the school knew the psychologist was having an affair with his wife.
According to the suit, the psychologist, James "Jack" Huntington, carried on a sexual relationship with Newmyer's wife, Tara Newmyer, after performing an assessment of the couple's daughter, referred to in the suit only as "L.N," who was in pre-K at the time. Huntington and Tara Newmyer, according to the documents, arranged numerous rendezvous following the assessment.
Huntington worked at Sidwell Friends for ten years before being terminated last year. Newmyer says the school "maliciously permitted" the affair to continue for nearly a year, "causing severe emotional distress" to his daughter and himself.
In one of the complaint's many bizarre passages lies an allegation that after storms knocked out power on two occasions, Huntington and Tara Newmyer arranged to hole up in adjoining rooms at a hotel, together with children from each family. The arrangement, says the suit, enabled the two to "fool around" after the kids went to sleep.
Arthur Newmyer seeks $10 million in compensatory, punitive, and special damages.
"We're disappointed that Mr. Newmyer chose this course but the complaint is without merit and the school will contest it," said Ellis Turner, associate head of school.
The complaint contains one apparently tangential contention. After excerpting some sexually explicit emails from Huntington to Tara Newmyer, reads, "All of the emails were written and sent by the same school psychologist who taught a sex education class to Sidwell sixth graders during the 2009-2010 school year."
Turner wouldn't confirm that Huntington taught sex education.
The suit says Huntington's ex-wife - also a child psychologist - objected to the affair and is the one who revealed it.
Sidwell Friends is one of the premier destinations for the children of Washington's most privileged families, including those of former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.