Board: Auburn followed policy after sex-assault allegations

AUBURN — Sherwood Heights Elementary School and Auburn School Department administrators properly followed harassment policies after two parents complained that their first-graders were sexually assaulted by another first-grader last month at the school, according to the School Committee.

The School Committee met in a closed-door executive session to listen to the parents, Sherwood Heights teachers and administrators Wednesday night. What was said is confidential, but the board listened and reviewed the allegations and actions followed by school administrators.

The committee came out of executive session and voted 5-2 that policies were followed.

Two members, Lane Feldman and City Councilor Ron Potvin, the mayor's representative on the committee, voted that policies were not properly followed.

Committee Chairman David Das said Friday he voted that policies were followed because "I certainly felt that the administration handled it very, very well." From the classroom teachers to the principals to the superintendent, "I commend them on the way they handled it," Das said. "The policies are in place to ensure the safety of all students. That is the mission of all faculty members."

Potvin said he voted against approval, in part, because he felt the student charged with assaulting the others could have been removed from school but was not.

"The policy allows them to suspend students for small periods of time," Potvin said. "They chose not to take that direction." Separating the students is necessary, he said. "You need that period of assessment to figure out what level infraction it was. Leaving the child within the situation is asking for something else to happen."

He also complained that the policy is too broad and allows for excessive discretion. "Given the seriousness of the allegation, the attorney general and Maine Department of Health and Human Services should be contacted," he said. "When there's an allegation of a felony, there are absolutes that should happen."

The policy should be changed, he said. "I will be making that motion so future situations don't erupt in the same way," he said.

Potvin said he was bothered by a lack of process by school officials after parents complained, including who the school police officer reports to, and parent notification.

He was brought up in the Boston school system, Potvin said. "We had three sexual predators. They were students. They were kept aside and monitored, only to re-offend. Not to say this is the case, but the idea is we have to act in a way that the possibility exists."

The committee also voted, unanimously, to hear an update report on the Sherwood Heights incident as soon as possible.

On Oct. 7 a mother told the School Committee that her 6-year-old son was sexually assaulted on Sept. 17 by a fellow classmate in the boys' bathroom. That same boy assaulted another first-grader, she said, complaining that the school moved the boy to another class without telling parents of the risks to children.

She asked the committee to look at how the incident was handled, saying she spoke out because she was concerned about the safety of Sherwood Heights students.

A second parent, a Lewiston police officer, complained that since his son was allegedly assaulted, the school department had "swept this under the table."

After Wednesday night's meeting, both parents said they were unhappy with what they saw as a lack of action from the School Committee.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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Shenna Albert's picture

Ok I have to say something

Ok I have to say something on this matter. My cousins daughter was at sherwood heights a couple yrs ago and was assulted by another student. The teacher said she didnt have time for her complaints. My cousin brought it to the schools attention and nothing was ever done about it. My Cousin made them have a meeting at the school administrator office and still nothing was done even though she brought in evidence that something did happen. They left the lil girl in the room right next to my cousins daughter. They wouldnt take the girl outa that class and the lil girl admitted to doing it to the school counselors which something should have been done about it right away but did nothing. Stuff like this should never be swept under the rug when a child complains and is told to go sit down cause she didnt have time for it. If I was a teacher I would've dropped everything I was doing and tend to this child. My cousins daughter has gotta live with this everyday. She was a first grader when it happened. They did nothing so my cousin took her outa school and was gonna homeschool her until walton said we will gladly take her with open arms and keep her safe from that ever happening again. At the time this happened the principal Mrs. Grondin got principal of the Year. She shoulda been stripped of that title as of the day she told my cousin that her daughter was lying and she couldnt put her in another school. Now it happens again and something is being done thats BS and I mean BS cause something should've been done a longtime ago when it happened to my cousins daughter. One more thing the cops were called and still nothing was done so where in the world is the safety for these children if even cops can't get thing done. BS BS BS

Guys the facts of the case

Guys the facts of the case can't be released because of privacy laws - it isn't any kind of cover up or attempt to sweep something under the rug as has been suggested.

The question about the policy was simple - did the administration violate school policy? The answer was clear that action was taken within school policy.

Could a different approach have been taken? Sure. And on the surface it is unfortunate that more could not have been done to prevent the situation and help parents feel safer, but second guessing without knowing the facts doesn't help anything.

If someone wants to contribute something positive to the situation they should show up to the School Committee meetings and suggest ways to improve the policies rather than just sit back and make claims that something could have been done differently.

 's picture

How are we to know anything,

How are we to know anything, the names have been withheld? I hate this when public officials do everything possible to hide the truth from citizens. The child's name can be withheld, but the parent making the accusations should be revealed so we would have an idea of their veracity. Especially since one of them is a cop, we all know their lack of reputation for truth and their ability to make things up. We need more openness so we can determine what is really going on.

 's picture

The identity of the victim's

The identity of the victim's parents is IRRELEVANT! You are such an idiot! Who really wants/needs to make up a story that their kid was sexually assaulted?! IDIOT!

 's picture

There could very well be

There could very well be more to this story than meets the eye. The ONLY way we can sort it all out is if we know the facts. We need to know what these parents are like, and do research to see what kind of background they have. Perhaps they're sue happy. We know one is a cop, enough said about what they could be up to. We need facts, not innuendo.

 's picture

The reading public. Perhaps

The reading public. Perhaps you already know everything, but the rest of us need more information. And for our collective safety , we deserve it!

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