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Maplewood, N.J. Teacher Charged With Sexually Assaulting 3 Male Students

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A high school language arts teacher in Maplewood, N.J. is accused of sexually assaulting three students.

Nicole Dufault, 34, of Caldwell, was arrested at her home Wednesday evening. She was charged Thursday with multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

Dufault is accused of having oral sex and intercourse with the students both on school property and in her car on multiple occasions, according to authorities. The victims were 15-year-old boys who were students at Columbia High School, according to authorities.

The incidents occurred during the regular school year and also during summer school in 2013 and 2014, prosecutors said.

Dufault was being held at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark on $500,000 bail.

She was ordered to have no contact with any of the victims, authorities said.

Dufault is the mother of two children, who have been removed from her custody.

In a letter to parents, South Orange/Maplewood Acting Supt. James G. Memoli and Columbia High School Principal Elizabeth Aaron said the school is taking precautions for students who might have been affected.

"The CHS administrative team, guidance counselors, student assistance counselors, school social workers, and teachers are actively supporting students and staff impacted by events," the letter said. "If your child is showing signs of stress in reaction to the events or the investigation, please reach out to his or her guidance counselor or a member of the administrative team."

The letter said Principal Aaron addressed the whole school and asked the school community to focus on teaching and learning despite the distraction. The principal refused to speak with CBS 2.

Dufault has worked at the high school for nine years.

And as CBS 2's Hazel Sanchez reported, parents were in shock after finding out about the alleged sexual misconduct.

"They do background checks on the teachers, so I don't understand," one parent said.

No one was at Dufault's apartment when CBS 2 dropped by Thursday night. Neighbor Maureen Messina, who has known Dufault for six years, said she never expected anything like the allegations her neighbor had been charged with.

"Seemed like a, you know, just an average mom going to work," Messina said.

Meanwhile, students have already started a social media campaign on Twitter, pleading #FreeMsDufault.

"They look up to the teachers, you know," a parent said. "And you know, this is who's supposed to protect them and guide them."

Messina said if the allegations are true, there is serious damage done.

"Not only did she destroy her life and her children, but the boys who are involved as well," Messina said.

Anyone with any information about this case is asked to contact the Essex County Prosecutor's Office Special Victims Unit at (973) 753-1130.

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