PARIS – Police Chief David Verrier said Friday that he has denied a federal agency’s request for records on an investigation alleging second-grade boys from Paris Elementary School harassed a boy on a bus last spring.

“There will have to be a federal subpoena to get those records,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint filed in late July by an unidentified person.

It’s the second complaint of sexual harassment involving second-grade boys at the school that the feds arereviewing.

Earlier this year, the civil rights office began investigating a complaint by Martin and Liesha Petrovich of Paris, who allege their 7-year-old daughter was harassed so badly she had to be moved to another school and school officials failed to adequately investigate.

That investigation is ongoing, federal civil rights attorney Donna Russell said, with a focus on SAD 17’s handling of the complaint.

Office for Civil Rights spokesman David Thomas described the latest complaint as alleging “sex discrimination against males, peer-on -peer sexual harassment.”

Last March, SAD 17 officials notified second-graders’ parents they had received several complaints from children and parents about inappropriate behavior among students in one second-grade classroom. In May, another letter was sent by Principal Jane Fahey announcing the school was investigating continued problem behavior in the school and on the bus, including an alleged assault.

School officials later told parents that an investigation failed to determine whether an assault had taken place on the bus, but disciplinary action had been taken against several second-grade boys.

Verrier said the case was turned over to the District Attorney’s office, and because of the age of the boys there was no prosecution, but they were referred to the Department of Human Services for counseling. He would not say whether his department’s investigation concluded an assault had taken place.

Citing confidentiality laws, officials would not say whether the children involved in the alleged bus incident were still attending the Paris Elementary School.

Verrier said Friday that he received a request from Superintendent Mark Eastman for the police records as part of the Office of Civil Rights investigation, but he denied the request on advice of the District Attorney’s office.

“We don’t release these documents,” Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne said, because state law doesn’t allow it. The denial is not due to the ages of those involved – in this case second-grade boys who allegedly ganged up on another boy and sexually assaulted him in a school bus – but applies to any material gathered in a police investigation regardless of the age of those involved, he said.

Eastman said it is impossible to know exactly what, if anything, happened on the bus, in part because videotapes were only kept for two or three days then, and it could not be determined conclusively when the alleged incident took place.

SAD 17 officials have until Sept. 30 to submit requested documents, including the police reports.

Liesha Petrovich said she was not surprised a second complaint has been filed.

“Obviously this is an issue much more widespread. It’s not just happening with my child,” she said.

Eastman said the sad truth is that schools across the state and beyond are all experiencing more and more harassment and bullying -type incidents in younger children.

“It’s a bit disturbing,” he said. “Kids are saying things we wouldn’t expect them to say. We need to actively teach appropriate behavior.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.