AUBURN — Parents who complained that not enough
was done to protect their two first-graders from sexual assault by another
student met with the Auburn School Committee on Wednesday night.
The closed-door meeting was called to
look into parents' concerns about steps the school took, or didn't take,
to keep students safe.
Meanwhile, educators from Advocates for Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing child abuse,
are teaching sexual abuse prevention to first- and second-graders at
Sherwood Heights. Advocates for Children provides the service every
year, but the agency is acting "in part in response to this
incident," Executive Director Betsy Norcross Plourde said Wednesday.
issue came to light on Oct. 7 when a mother
spoke to the Auburn School Committee about the safety of her son and
others at Sherwood Heights.
"On Sept. 17 my 6-year-old son, who
is in first grade, was sexually assaulted by a fellow classmate in the
boys' bathroom," the woman said through tears.
Three weeks later she said, "I don't believe that the representatives of the
Auburn School Department and Sherwood Heights have sufficiently
provided a safe environment for the community's children."
talking to numerous officials and not getting the attention she said
the issue deserved, the woman told School Committee members that she had to
resort to a public forum "hopefully to prevent another family from
experiencing our nightmare."
The alleged perpetrator, also a
first-grader, has been moved to a different classroom, she said. "As
far as I know, none of the parents in the new classroom are aware of the
change or risk to the children."
The mother said she feels for
the first-grader who allegedly assaulted her son. "Something obviously
was done wrong to this poor child. Unfortunately, he can't be my
She said her son was one of two victims.
officials "apparently did nothing to warn the police or address the
behavior," she said. "The other victimized family was only made aware
of the issues after my son's assault."
On Oct. 7 she asked for the executive session to look at how the school and the school department handled the incident.
other parent also said on Oct.
7 that the issue was poorly handled. Since his son was assaulted, "you have
done nothing but try to hide this thing," he said. "This school has
violated my son's civil rights and the other little boy's. They've done
nothing but sweep this under the table and bully us. I
am not a man that's going to be bullied by anyone. I am going to
protect my son and the other children involved."
Superintendent Tom Morrill responded by saying any allegation is
"thoroughly investigated" by many, including the school resource
officer, who works for the Auburn Police Department.
various agencies," Morrill said. "In this case, we continue to contact Advocates for
Children to make sure their personal safety program is delivered to our
Advocates for Children will speak about
sexual abuse prevention at Sherwood Heights' upcoming PTO meeting, the
superintendent said. That meeting is scheduled for Nov. 10.
said he was not at liberty to talk about specifics in the case, "but it
has been taken seriously." The school has responded with the
appropriate actions and involved the appropriate parties. "Also, we can
never forget it's also our responsibility to educate all children,"
The father of one of the alleged victims disagreed, calling Morrill's response "a
bunch of crap. ... You have not taken the appropriate actions. You can
talk about plans and placement and programs and all this nice,
touchy-feely stuff and hide behind all these laws, but your school
failed to protect my kid, bottom line."