OCEAN GATE — The principal and superintendent of this borough's single-school district has been accused of raping a girl with autism starting when she was 9 years old.

The allegations made in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday say Frank Vanalesti befriended and dated a woman so that he could sexually abuse her daughter, a 9-year-old whose disability held her back several grades in school. She was in the second grade at his school when the abuse began, the lawsuit says.

Vanalesti has never been charged with a crime and the lawsuit acknowledges that the state child protective agency investigated one of the complaints against him and found his denial believable.

But the lawsuit says Vanalesti used his prestigious position to con authorities, including the girl's mother, who kicked him out of her house a month after he had moved in when the girl told her that he had “touched my boobs" and made her disrobe and sit on his lap, the lawsuit says.

The civil complaint says Vanalesti convinced the woman that he had not molested her daughter and he was allowed to move back in.

The lawsuit says that between 2011 and 2015, Vanalesti regularly barged in on the girl while she was in the bathroom, watched her shower, molested her and vaginally raped her, which the lawsuit says she described by saying "it hurt a lot.”

The lawsuit also says that Vanalesti made the girl get naked while he video-chatted with a naked woman online.

The 29-count and 87-page complaint says that the girl lives in "constant fear" and locks her bedroom door at night even though she now lives in South Carolina.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in damages from the superintendent as well as the district.

The family's attorney, Robert R Fuggi Jr., said the mother reported the accusations to authorities but is not sure if the investigation continues.

“We are hopeful that the prosecutor’s office will reopen any criminal investigation that may have been closed," Fuggi said Wednesday.

The district's attorney has previously denied the allegations, telling the Asbury Park Press last month , after the family had put the district on notice that they intended to sue, that "those allegations were thoroughly investigated by a state agency and were determined to be without merit."

Vanalesti has been superintendent for 13 years. He previously was a principal in Asbury Park, superintendent of Little Egg Harbor schools, and an administrator in the Medford Lakes, Mullica, Middle Township and Galloway school districts.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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