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Judge rejects appeal of student's suspension after assault claim

By Stephen Betts | Apr 09, 2020

Rockland — A judge rejected an appeal by the mother of a Camden Hills Regional High School student over an eight-day suspension last spring for an incident in which he was accused of sexual assault.

Justice Bruce Mallonee denied in an April 6 ruling the appeal filed by the mother of the Hope student.

The attorney for the mother said an appeal to the state Law Court may be filed.

The student was acquitted of criminal charges following a day-long trial Jan. 10 before Judge Susan Oram. The Camden Hills student from Hope was charged with gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual touching.

The incident occurred May 20, 2019, in the young woman's car in a parking lot after school. Both were students at the school.

Mallonee ruled the mother's appeal of the school suspension was not reviewable.

"Even if it were, the court would uphold the principal's decision. The record showed the principal, the two vice principals, counselor, teacher and every adult involved proceeded fairly and with circumspection," Justice Mallonee ruled.

"Their actions were measured and professional: no one leaped to a conclusion, made a decision based on incomplete information, or advocated for or against either student. No one overreacted to a serious situation that had caused visible and hurtful consequences. Everyone demonstrated exemplary diligence and sensitivity to the emotions of the two students in crisis."

Attorney Laura Shaw, who represented the mother and son, said the ruling was a disappointment.

"Because my client was already found not guilty of the alleged offense after a full trial, we only asked the judge to consider whether the school violated his due process rights. The judge decided not only that we didn’t have the right to ask the court to review the school’s conduct, but that my client was not entitled to certain due process protections, such as notice of what he was alleged to have done, and therefore the judge believed the school did the bare minimum that the constitution requires.

"The court’s ruling would give schools an unprecedented level of unchecked authority that effectively causes students to be stripped of their rights upon entering a school, and we strongly disagree with the judge’s reasoning and the outcome. These are important issues that have never been considered by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and we are certainly contemplating an appeal to allow the Law Court to provide much-needed clarification," Shaw said in an April 9 statement.

Justice Mallonee held a hearing in the Knox County court Dec. 20 on the mother's legal action.

The mother argued that her son's Constitutional rights to due process were violated and a proper investigation had not been held, and the suspension was not supported by substantial evidence.

The high school principal concluded the male student's conduct toward the young woman was a violation of school rules and policies, leading to the eight-day suspension.

The case became public when the teen's mother filed a lawsuit June 18 in the Knox County court seeking to overturn the suspension.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Apr 09, 2020 12:39

A young girl had her rights violated with this young man's assault. As a mother I would certainly restrict this young man and teach him a lesson on how to properly treat a girl/woman.



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