OXFORD – Police and school officials are investigating a complaint that a first-grade girl was touched inappropriately by at least one and possibly two elementary school boys on a bus Tuesday afternoon.

The Oxford Elementary School student was taken out of school by her parents Wednesday and will be home schooled along with her two siblings for the rest of the school year, her mother, Deborah Walo, said.

“We’re just as concerned as they are,” SAD 17 Superintendent Mark Eastman said of the allegations. He said the school investigation may be wrapped up as early as Thursday or Friday. “If there are consequences we want to start moving on them,” he said.

Walo said her daughter was touched inappropriately by a kindergartener and second-grader between the time she got on the bus at school and when she was dropped off near her home. Walo said she could not tell whether the alleged touching took place under or over the girl’s clothing because she is waiting for area agencies to interview the child before she asks her any more questions.

Walo, who pulled her middle school son out of SAD 17 earlier this school year after he was allegedly involved in a physical altercation with another student on a school bus in the fall of 2006, said she has had enough.

“Somebody has to stand up and do this to protect our children,” Walo said of the action she is taking, including contacting the Maine Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights division in Boston.

Eastman said the bus surveillance video has been reviewed by school personnel and is in the hands of police. He said based on the preliminary investigation, it appears the children were seated three rows back from the driver. It is not clear whether one or two students were involved or exactly what, if anything, happened, he said. All students have assigned seats on that bus, he said.

Eastman said he can not comment on the contents of the videotape until all interviews are done. The girl’s parents have refused to let school personnel interview her, he said, and have not come to the office to talk to him as he requested immediately after hearing about the incident.

“We just wanted a rational conversation. It was not possible last night,” Eastman said of the situation that escalated when the parents went to the school bus garage in Norway on Tuesday to try to retrieve the videotape and had to be escorted from the premises, according to Norway police officer Theron Bickford.

Walo said she has asked school administrators in the past to consider budgeting for bus monitors, but has been told there is not enough money.

“I think paying for an adult to be on this bus run is the least we can do,” Walo said. “At what point do we stand up as a community and say enough is enough.”

Eastman said that with 40 buses it would be financially impossible now to hire monitors for every one. The videotapes are kept running whenever students are on a school bus, but because they are not digital technology they generally run for an eight-hour cycle before being reused.

Oxford police Chief Jon Tibbetts said his department’s investigation is active and could take several months, depending on whether outside agencies are involved.

Tibbetts said this is the first such school bus complaint the department has investigated this year, but such allegations are not unexpected despite the ages of those involved.

“I’ve been a cop for 30 years. Nothing surprises me,” he said.


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