Police, district attorney investigate case of misconduct involving student, teacher

By Juliette Laaka | Dec 12, 2013

Rockland — The Rockland Police Department has forwarded an investigation of alleged misconduct to the district attorney's office involving an educational technician and a student with autism at South Elementary School.

The mother of the child called police Oct. 9 after she was notified by the school about an incident of misconduct involving a staff member while he was in the bathroom with her son.

Nobody had been charged at this time, said Rockland Police Detective Chris Young, who investigated the case, but added the staff member involved is no longer employed at the school. Young said the male staff member denied anything inappropriate occurred.

Regional School Unit 13 did investigate the allegation in this case and reported the information to Department of Health and Human Services Child Protective Services. Their agency, in turn, forwarded the referral to the Department of Education, according to information provided by RSU 13.

When the bathroom door was pushed open by another student, a staff member reported seeing the ed tech with the student, appearing to be going to the bathroom or possibly covering himself, according to a letter from Attorney Atlee Reilly of the Disability Rights Center in Augusta sent to DHHS, Rockland Police, RSU 13 and the Department of Education. The Disability Rights Center is representing the student and his mother.

The alleged perpetrator denied he was in the bathroom alone with the student with his pants partially down. Despite his denial, he did choose to resign his position and did so immediately, according to a Dec. 3 letter from Superintendent Lew Collins to Reilly.

The child is to have one-on-one attention at all times, including while in the bathroom, said Young. Young said as there have not been charges filed, he is unable to provide some information as the case is under investigation.

All potential witnesses and people involved have been interviewed about the incident, except for the student, police said.

"Since the incident, not a single person has spoken with, interviewed, or otherwise attempted to get information from the student. And the parent still has no better idea what may have happened to her son than she did on Oct. 1," Reilly said in the letter.

The mother is troubled that she has not received any answers or closure, the letter states.

"She is troubled by the lack of any meaningful investigative response to an allegation that a school staff member had his pants at least partially down when he was alone in the bathroom with a ... student with a disability," Reilly said in the letter.

The mother also is troubled that her son was never interviewed and she believes his input was not sought because of the nature of his disability, Reilly said

Rockand Police Detective Russ Thompson observed the child, but was unable to establish a way to best conduct an interview, Young said. The student is non-verbal and the department is hoping the district attorney's office will have the resources to determine how best to communicate with the child about what may have happened.

The district attorney's office will review the case and determine whether charges will be filed, Young said.

Courier Publications Copy Editor Kim Lincoln contributed to this story.

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Juliette Laaka
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Juliette primarily covers the cops and courts beat for The Courier-Gazette.

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