Friday, November 12, 1999
School sexual harassment case appears resolved
Based on letters from federal investigators and former Carlisle resident Marion Alberico, Carlisle School officials can put the sexual harassment case behind them and continue renewed efforts under a recently revised policy.
In May 1999, a complaint was filed by John and Marion Alberico with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) against the Carlisle Public Schools alleging that a teacher sexually harassed their daughter and that the school failed to take appropriate action in handling the complaint. The Albericos also alleged that the school retaliated against their daughter for complaining about the harassment by lowering her grades. They further alleged that the school retaliated against another teacher who provided a "safe haven" for their daughter.
The Office for Civil Rights investigated the complaint of retaliation against the teacher. However, the other parts of the complaint investigation were transferred to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) after the Albericos filed their complaint with the state agency on June 22.
At the Carlisle School Committee meeting on November 2, Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson reported that OCR had closed their investigation on October 22, finding no evidence of retaliation against the teacher. Because litigation was still pending on the other complaints, Fox-Melanson indicated that she could not discuss the matter further.
In a document dated October 22 and sent to the Mosquito from OCR, more details were given about the nature of the alleged retaliation. The principal had documented in writing, points of criticism of the teacher. Through investigation, the OCR found that, although actions of the principal were adverse to the teacher, there was insufficient evidence that they were retaliatory.
OCR noted, however, that during the investigation, "strong emotions" were observed among the school staff and administration because of the allegations of the complaint. OCR cautioned that it is the responsibility of the school to prevent a hostile climate and to prevent any retaliation against the teacher by the administration and other staff.
In a letter to the editor (see page 2), Marion Alberico announced that they have withdrawn their complaint against the town of Carlisle filed with MCAD. She outlines the concerns that prompted them to take legal recourse and explains their belief that, "The MCAD was their only way of precipitating a positive outcome." She believes the "school is heading in the right direction" and recommends that parents listen closely to their children.
Asked for comment about the news that the complaint had been withdrawn, Fox-Melanson responded, "The school would not have a comment until they received official notification from MCAD" that the case had been closed.
Sexual harassment policy
The school has developed a sexual harassment policy for students that includes a definition and examples of sexual harassment, plus a well-defined procedure for filing a complaint. Linda Stapp, director of student support services, explained to the CSC that the policy will be mailed home to all parents first, with an explanatory cover letter, probably before the winter break.
In the lower grades, pre-school through grade four, parents will be asked to review the policy with their children. The policy will also be discussed in an age-appropriate way in the Open Circle program. In grades 5 to 8, the policy will be distributed to students and discussed in health education classes and in Open Circle.
A concerned parent in the audience said that she was aware of cases of inappropriate touching in the past. She was glad to see the steps for filing a complaint so clearly spelled out in the policy.
· CSC member Cindy Nock reported that at the last regional school committee meeting, when the subject of regionalizing the middle schools of Carlisle and Concord came up, there was no interest at all from Concord school committee members.
· The school has received a grant of $4,200 from the Carlisle Education Foundation for the purchase of Spanish and French textbooks.
· The eighth-grade parent treasury board has voted to fund poetry books for the eighth-grade language arts program.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito