Investigator: Allegations of sexual assault of child at Calais school unfounded

Posted May 20, 2011, at 11:13 a.m.
Last modified May 20, 2011, at 6:57 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — An investigation by an outside law firm hired by AOS 77 has determined that allegations made four months ago that a 10-year-old pupil was sexually assaulted by a classmate at Calais Elementary were unfounded.

The investigation was conducted by Melissa A. Hewey, an attorney at the law firm of Drummond Woodsum and MacMahon of Portland, who has more than 20 years experience in school law, Superintendent James Underwood revealed in a written report presented recently to the Calais School Board and provided to the Bangor Daily News on Thursday.

Underwood said the investigation concluded that no assault occurred at the Calais Elementary School and that the staff at the school is taking very appropriate steps to supervise students and ensure their safety. Hewey interviewed 15 separate witnesses, visited the school and reviewed relevant documentation of the allegations.

“This has been a difficult situation for everyone involved,” Underwood wrote in his report.

In early April, the 10-year-old child’s mother reported to the Bangor Daily News that her mentally handicapped son had been sexually assaulted at both a community park and Calais Elementary School.

Tiffany Featherson, 32, of Calais blamed a classmate for injuring her son at the school and in the park. She said both incidents happened in March and that after the alleged attack at the park, her son was hospitalized for three days.The child told Featherson that one incident happened in a school bathroom and the second was at the park and  was witnessed by at least one other child. Featherson said her son’s disability is not so severe that he cannot accurately communicate. She also said the perpetrator told her son that if he spoke of the event, his mother would be harmed.

After Featherson reported her claims to the Bangor Daily News, Sgt. Chris Donahue of the Calais Police Department and Underwood both confirmed they were conducting separate investigations of the allegations.

In his report, Underwood said that when the mother first made the allegation, he took four immediate steps: He contacted the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, he contacted the Calais Police Department, he hired the independent investigator, and he installed what he referred to as “eyes-on” supervision. He said this meant that the student alleged to have committed the assault was watched at all times by an adult at the school.

On Friday, Donahue said the police investigation into the

allegations at the park is “an open and ongoing investigation.” He said the police department’s investigation covers only the alleged park incident, not the claims that were made at the school.

Featherson said Friday she has removed her child from the Calais School System, and he is attending classes elsewhere and doing well.

As for the results of the school investigation, Featherson said they solidify her opinion that neither the school officials nor the investigator chose to believe her son’s accusations.

“They called him a liar,” she said. She said she was not disappointed that the police investigation was not completed yet, acknowledging that when you are dealing with children it could take some time to sort things out.

Underwood said there were some positive things that resulted from the investigation. “I am particularly pleased that a third party with extensive experience in school matters has reviewed our policies and practices and determined that we are doing what we should do,” he said. He added that he was proud of the professionalism shown by Calais Elementary School staff in this matter. “We have a first rate staff and a first rate school and a lot to be proud of,” Underwood wrote.

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