Slain teacher’s family sues town, school system, cleaners


LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — The family of a high school teacher who was raped and killed by a 14-year-old student filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the town where she died, the school system and a cleaning company whose workers washed away potential evidence.

Colleen Ritzer was killed inside Danvers High School in 2013. Philip Chism was convicted in December of aggravated rape, robbery and murder, and was later sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole in 40 years.

Philip Chism (AP Photo)
Philip Chism (AP Photo)

The Salem News reports that the lawsuit filed by Colleen Ritzer’s family in Lawrence Superior Court does not seek personal financial compensation. Instead, the lawsuit asks for answers to questions surrounding Ritzer’s death.

The family is also seeking compensation to enhance school safety programs and “to contribute to the legacy of Colleen Ritzer through third-party nonprofit organizations,” the lawsuit states.

Danvers school administrators said they can’t comment on pending litigation but noted that they are “committed to continuing Colleen Ritzer’s legacy of kindness and dedication to teaching.”

The architectural firm that designed the new school wing where Ritzer was killed was also named as a defendant in the suit.

Chism had stayed after school on Oct. 22, 2013, for the help block period when teachers were available to assist students. Surveillance video played for jurors during Chism’s trial showed Chism following Ritzer into a school bathroom after pulling the hood of his sweatshirt over his head and putting on gloves.

The lawsuit says that despite the fact that Chism’s movements were captured by numerous cameras inside and outside the school, no one was monitoring the activity on the computer in the front office.

The lawsuit asks why Ritzer was alone in that academic wing that afternoon and why no one was monitoring the school security system.

Chism had just moved to Massachusetts from Clarksville, Tennessee, at the time of the killing. A psychiatrist who testified for the defense said Chism was hearing voices and was in the throes of a psychotic episode.

Click here for complete coverage of the case.

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