SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Berwick Academy has fired a popular teacher and coach accused of photographing female students without their knowledge.
The teacher is accused of taking pictures of female students at the private school over the last 12 to 18 months, South Berwick Police Chief Dana Lajoie said Friday. School officials reported the allegations to police after being notified by a student.
Foster’s Daily Democrat has confirmed the teacher’s identity, but is not releasing his name because he has not been charged with a crime.
Police executed a search warrant at the man’s Sanford home Wednesday, seizing cameras, cellphones, an iPad, a Nintendo Wii and a computer. No charges have been filed in the case, although police say they could be filed within a week.
“We don’t know what we have until we thoroughly examine everything,” Lajoie said. “Until the investigation is concluded, I can’t honestly say what we could have for potential charges.”
It’s possible, he added, that no charges will be filed against the teacher.
The department sent the computers and electronic devices to an outside agency for forensic analysis. Lajoie would not say which law enforcement agency is performing the review.
Berwick Academy officials declined to comment on the incident. However, the school released a statement outlining its response to the allegations.
“Upon confirming the validity of these allegations, we took swift internal actions to end this teacher’s employment, and we immediately reported this situation to local law enforcement,” school Communications Director Tracey Boucher said in a statement.
“We are cooperating fully with the police during their investigation, as the safety and security of our student body and anyone visiting the Berwick Academy campus remain our highest priority,” the statement continued.
Lajoie confirmed the teacher is under investigation and that the case is a top priority for three officers. He also confirmed the man’s identity.
However, he acknowledged it’s not typical for investigations to become public while in progress.
“We don’t usually do this. Normally, we conduct an investigation, we come to a conclusion and if charges are forthcoming we bring them,” he said.
Police announced the investigation because of news of the allegations had already spread, aided in part by a letter the school sent parents about the incident. As a result, Lajoie said there was “lots of confusion.”
Police issued a news release late Thursday announcing the investigation that did not name the accused teacher.
For now, much about the case is not known, including how many potential victims there are, whether any incriminating photos exist and what they show. It’s also not clear if the allegations stem from the teacher’s role as a coach of two girls sports teams.
“I am sure next week we will get this all out on the table,” Lajoie said. “It’s just too early for me to answer some of these questions. If we knew, we would be done with our investigation.”
South Berwick police have not yet spoken with the teacher. Officers spent much of the day Friday interviewing students.
“That’s what we are working on,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
Berwick Academy is a private day school located in South Berwick. The school has 588 students enrolled in prekindergarten through 12th grade.
Distributed by MCT Information Services