Until now, the Berkshire Hills Regional School District has focused on supporting our students who are involved in the ongoing investigation of a former district employee, rather than comment directly or indirectly on the investigation. Given the speculation and questions raised in both press articles and letters to the editor, we believe that it is important to provide facts pertaining to the earlier incident.
In the spring of 2004, the principal of the Stockbridge Plain School, Dr. Robert Putnam, received two reports of alleged misconduct by a school employee, both of which had happened months previously. He informed the superintendent, Donna Moyer, and an internal investigation began. As a mandated reporter, Dr. Putnam also filed a report with the Department of Social Services (DSS), now the Department of Children and Families, about the alleged misconduct. DSS had the authority to investigate and to involve the police, if the department felt it was warranted.
The superintendent also contacted appropriate state agencies and requested a full investigation into the reported misconduct. Given the nature of the allegations and the determination to allow an unbiased investigation, the local law enforcement agency recused itself from the investigation and the state police took over the inquiry. The district turned the matter in its entirety, including notes generated by the district, over the Department of Social Services and the state police investigator. The district felt strongly that an inquiry by the experts in conducting such an investigation was the best way to proceed.
Subsequent to its investigation, DSS found "no reasonable cause" for further action. By making this decision, DSS found that there was not sufficient evidence to support a finding of abuse or neglect by the district employee. With this decision from DSS, and upon advice from legal counsel, standard precautionary measures were maintained. No additional or subsequent complaints against this employee were made to the district.
While the current arrest and investigation may cause a retrospective review of actions taken, we remain confident that all parties, including the state agencies, took the necessary and mandated steps at that time to investigate the reported incidents.
The district’s students are the number one priority to the School Committee and administration. During this difficult time, the district and its employees will continue to do all that they can to support those students who are involved in the investigation as well as all of the district’s students.
STEPHEN C. BANNON
The writer is chairman of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District School Committee and is writing on its behalf.