Dispute between father and Waterville school continues after three years

Posted March 28, 2013, at 3:47 p.m.
Michael White, left, and his father Tim White in November 2011.
Tim White | Courtesy photo
Michael White, left, and his father Tim White in November 2011.

WATERVILLE, Maine — Three years after his son was expelled from Temple Academy, Tim White is still battling the private Christian school.

White, 55, had been protesting outside of the school with picket signs for months. After parents and staff complained, a protection from harassment order was granted by a judge at Waterville District Court last April.

That order is set to expire in two weeks, and the school is attempting to extend the order for another two years.

White, who works in construction, said he’s trying to right a wrong, while the school said White’s actions have been intimidating and made employees fearful, according to court documents.

It all started after White was replaced as the high school’s volunteer basketball coach. He had served as coach from 2007 through 2009. The school has more than 140 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

White didn’t agree with the change and asked to meet with several members of the school’s staff.

Then-principal James McSpadden and current principal Denise Lafountain sent White a letter dated Sept. 24, 2009 that read in part, “We are taking a different administrative approach to our athletic department this year.” They asked that he continue to support the school.

White, who said he became the volunteer coach partly to be with his son, took his grievance up the administrative ladder. In four meetings with administration, White was told that he was removed because he had anger issues.

Lafountain, who declined to comment for this story, told the Bangor Daily News in 2010 that White “called the school repeatedly” over the course of several weeks, usually using a “heated tone.” White also acted inappropriately on the court at least twice, including an incident, according to Lafountain, that involved White “screaming at the school’s pastor” during a basketball game when White was running the scoreboard. The incidents continued until the school filed for a criminal trespass warning against White, which was granted by the Waterville Police Department in Feb. 26, 2010.

White said that while he was coach, he was never called into the office, no letters were written and there were no comments on any anger issues.

Pastor Tim Haynes of Calvary Pentecostal Church in Madison wrote a letter in defense of White in 2010, stating that he had never seen the anger issues characterized by the school, despite having spent time with White during many activities including white-water rafting, hunting and camping trips.

White’s son, Michael, was expelled from the school on February 4, 2010, during an assembly at the school. Michael White, who was a junior at the time, graduated from Carrabec High School in North Anson in 2011. He is currently awaiting deployment to Afghanistan while in Hawaii for the Army.

White said he stopped contacting the school after the warning was given. Instead, he picketed across the street from Temple Academy and Calvary Temple on West River Road.

He held up various signs, including one that said the church was no better than Penn State — the scandal that broke in 2011 in which the school allegedly covered up cases of child sexual abuse. He also carried a sign that drew comparisons of Calvary Temple’s Pastor Craig Riportella to infamous 1970s leader of the Jonestown massacre, Jim Jones. Calvary Temple runs the school.

Riportella declined to comment on Thursday.

Attorney Alton Stevens of Waterville, who is representing Temple Academy, has documented facts he says support the complaint for protection from harassment. In a document filed in Waterville District Court, he said White’s picketing outside the school has caused “some parents to feel uneasy about the safety of their children.” On some occasions, White stood with no sign and stared at the school, he said.

The school was granted a protection from harassment order on April 2, 2012. That order expires on April 12, but the school is seeking to extend the order for another two years. The two parties are set to meet on April 1 at Waterville District Court.

White said he should have the right to protest the school.

“Shouldn’t the first amendment apply to a father protesting peacefully across the street from a church?” White asked.

White said he’s asking for an apology from the school for him and his son.

“I would like this church to have my son come back when he’s on leave,” he said. “I’d like [Riportella] to apologize to him in front of the congregation. They dismissed him [from the school] publicly, they should apologize publicly.”

Michael White agreed with his father.

“I think they owe a major apology,” he said. “They said it to me before, but it wasn’t sincere. I felt like they were trying to get me to work against my father. If you can’t say you’re sorry to my dad, then don’t say it to me.”

Tim White is also asking for monetary compensation, he said.

“I’m asking for every penny of tuition to be reimbursed, and I’m asking for [an additional] $5,000,” said White. “Because of pain and suffering. Because of what they’ve put us through.”

White said tuition runs about $3,000 per year. Because his son started school there in the second semester of eighth grade, he estimates he paid $9,000 in tuition to the school.

The money was off the table once before, said White. He relayed a message through Haynes to the school that he would not seek any money if school administration would meet with him.

“The day of the meeting, they canceled it and refused to meet with me,” said White. “They didn’t want to make things right. That’s why I don’t want to take money off the table [again].”

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