MACHIAS, Maine — A 11-year-old Harrington boy who faces a charge of sexually assaulting another boy is no threat to others if he returns to class at Harrington Elementary School, his attorney said Wednesday.
A Washington County District Court judge ordered the defendant on Tuesday to attend school or an alternative education program as a condition of his continued release. The boy has been tutored at the offices of School Administrative District 37 in recent weeks, Jeffrey Davidson, his attorney, told the court.
“I really don’t believe there will be a safety issue in the school,” Davidson told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday.
Some parents in the community “maybe think he’s a villainous monster who’s going to do terrible things in class, but that’s really silly,” he added.
Davidson has not talked with school officials yet about whether his client will return to class or continue to be tutored. “We’ll have that discussion with the school … when it’s the right time,” he said.
The victim of the alleged sexual assault was a student at the same school, but the incident did not take place on school property. Some parents have sought to have the accused boy removed from school, but school officials insist they may not take such action because the alleged assault took place off school property.
In a new development, the parents of the victim and an attorney representing them acknowledged they have a legal action pending. Glen Porter, a Bangor attorney representing the couple, said his clients have filed a preliminary notice of a pending legal claim, which is civil, not criminal.
“No litigation has been filed at this point,” he said.
Asked who the defendant would be, Porter said it was “unknown,” but he noted the pending legal claim “has to do with the school district and the superintendent.” The legal action likely will be filed within 30-60 days, he said.
The school district is headed by Superintendent Ronald Ramsay, who did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday.
“We’re not sure at this point” what type of legal action they would take, the victim’s father said Wednesday. He and his wife have been waiting to see how the criminal case would unfold, he added. The parents, who are not being named by the Bangor Daily News in order to protect the identity of their son, removed their son and a sibling from the elementary school and placed them in private school.
The father of the victim made it clear that his claim would target SAD 37.
“I will go after the school district,” he said, “just to get things done.”
He intends to seek compensation for expenses associated with putting his two children in private school, he said.
“I shouldn’t have had to yank my kids out of school,” he contended. In addition to incurring the expense of private school tuition, he and his wife have had added costs of transporting their children to private school and rescheduling business activities. Expenses would total about $250,000 by the time his children graduate grade 12, he said.
“None of this would have happened,” he argued, if the school district had followed federal Title IX policies. Under those policies, an incidence of sexual assault could place a student in a “disruptive learning environment,” said the father, who, with other parents, sought the removal from the classroom of the boy who was charged. A subcommittee of the SAD 37 school board is conducting a review of school district policies.
His son’s behavior changed last fall before the parents learned of the sexual assault, his wife said in an interview in January.
However, the child’s condition has improved, the father suggested Wednesday. The boy has gained more than six pounds since a physical exam in November.
“It’s a substantial change,” he said. “He’s happy now.”
Davidson declined to elaborate on statements he made in court on Tuesday, when he suggested that his client may have been in danger from adults in the community. Threats toward his client were intimated in social media, Davidson told the court.
They were not aware of any threats made toward the defendant in social media or other venues, the parents of the victim said. However, at a meeting of angry parents with Ramsay in January, some parents asked the superintendent if they thought the alleged offender was safe in school. Ramsay’s view was that the boy was not safe, according to the victim’s father.
Sarah Strout, a leading organizer of the meeting of parents with Ramsay and a protest the same day, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Davidson praised Ramsay for the way he has handled the situation. Ramsay “has really been a prince,” he said, in the way he has treated his client as well as others in the case.
The father of the victim had a different view. “We fought with [school officials] about five weeks,” he said, trying to persuade them to “do the right thing.” Ramsay would not put the issue on the agenda for a school board meeting, he said. “He took it upon himself to just bury it.”