MILBRIDGE, Maine — Parents upset that a child charged with a sex offense has been allowed to remain a student at Harrington Elementary School petitioned the SAD 37 board Wednesday night, requesting a review of school district policies.
The petition forms were signed by 103 residents of communities throughout the school district, said Tiffany Strout of Harrington, who presented them to the board of directors at its regular meeting. Organizers collected the signatures in about two and a half days.
The petition notes that the signers believe school district by-laws and policies “are not being enforced to their full potential and intentions.” The petition requests board members, teachers and the superintendent to review by-laws and policies related to sexual misconduct, bullying and harassment between students, students and teachers, and teachers and teachers “with special concern related to any shortcomings of existing policies currently in place.”
The petition also seeks an “immediate review and implementation” of by-laws and policies and implementation in less than 30 days of those “currently not being enforced.”
The petition was referred to a standing subcommittee on policies and by-laws.
The overture to the school board follows a protest and meeting with Superintendent Ronald Ramsay on Monday. The protest involved parents keeping their children out of school; nearly 60 students were absent that day. Ramsay met behind closed doors with dozens of parents to hear their concerns.
In addition, Lisa Norton, a member of the SAD 37 board, resigned Monday over the controversy.
An 11-year-old Harrington boy was summoned by Maine State Police in late December on a felony charge of gross sexual assault. The boy and his alleged victim were both students at Harrington Elementary School, but the alleged assault did not happen on school grounds, according to State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland. The alleged assailant is scheduled to appear in court in February. The boy is not being named because he is a juvenile.
A Harrington woman who says her son was the victim of the sexual assault reported it to State Police after she learned of it. Her son was 8 when he was forced to perform a sex act on the alleged assailant at that boy’s home in September, she said.
The mother said she has since taken her son and her other child out of Harrington Elementary School and enrolled them in a private school. She attended the meeting Wednesday night but did not speak.
“We’re here to support” school officials, Tiffany Strout said in addressing the school board briefly Wednesday night. The intention of the petition is “not against anybody here or how they do their job,” she added.
“The community is involved,” Strout said. The petitions were signed by residents of every community in the school district except Deblois, she noted. The district also includes Addison, Columbia, Columbia Falls, Milbridge and Cherryfield.
Another parent, Kandi Robertson of Harrington, also provided the school board with information about policies of other school districts.
“Excellent,” said board chairman Everett Grant of Addison. “Thank you.”
Speaking with a reporter later, Robertson said the issue is not only effective policies but their implementation and enforcement. “Who’s reviewing if these policies are being enforced the way they’re intended to be enforced?” asked Robertson, who attended Monday’s meeting with Ramsay. The implementation of policies involves some subjective interpretation by school officials, she said.
She discussed the issue of implementation with Ramsay, she said, but “didn’t really get a good answer.”
In a briefing to the school board, Ramsay acknowledged the “media event and protest” on Monday as well as his meeting with parents.
The school district has a policy prohibiting bullying that can extend to behavior off school grounds, but Ramsay has said the policy did not apply in the current circumstances.
To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine. Calls are automatically routed to the closest sexual violence service provider.