Sunday May 13, 2012

STOCKBRIDGE -- Berkshire Hills Regional School District has denied The Eagle’s request for records of the district’s 2004 internal investigation of student allegations of sexual misconduct against a school employee. In its denial, the district cited state law that allows such records to be withheld from the public.

The Eagle requested records of the district’s investigation of Scott Muir, who was working as student center support coordinator at the Stockbridge Plain School in 2004 when he was accused of inappropriately touching two students.

According to a police report, two 10-year-old students in 2004 accused Muir of inappropriately touching them while giving them piggyback rides on the playground.

One of the students also said Muir took her into his basement office -- the same floor where Muir has an office in what is now the Stockbridge Town Offices -- and twice pulled up her shirt and once pulled up her dress and grabbed her buttocks over her underwear, according to a recent police report that cited forensic interviews conducted in 2004.

Muir wasn’t charged at the time. But he now faces multiple counts of rape of a child and indecent assault on a child under 14 in connection with the same students and a third who came forward in March.

In an email to The Eagle, Superintendent Peter Dillon cited a 2000 Supreme Judicial Court ruling, Wakefield Teach ers Association v. School Com mittee of Wakefield.

In that case, the court stood by the state Legislature’s determination that personnel files and information should be exempt from the Public Re cords Law because their disclosures could hinder the government’s ability to function effectively as an employer.

Muir, 36, of Church Street, is currently on paid administrative leave from numerous town positions, including Town Offices facilities manager and fire department captain.

Dillon said the district is cooperating with the authorities, but is following the recommendation of its legal counsel in not releasing the requested materials.

"In the context of an ongoing investigation, we feel that this stuff should be evaluated in the courts by the appropriate authorities and then eventually by a jury of one’s peers," said Dillon.

In Dillon’s citation of the Wakefield case, he didn’t claim any legal obligation requiring the school district to withhold the requested documents, and instead relied solely on the personnel exemption to support the denial. That exemption permits the withholding of such documents, but doesn’t require it.

The school district’s 2004 internal investigation was passed on to the Department of Social Services, now the Department of Children and Families, and the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office.

The DA’s office did not charge Muir at the time. Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless has said previously that the information obtained in 2004 didn’t warrant the filing of criminal charges.

Whether the school district reprimanded or disciplined Muir as a result of its 2004 investigation is not clear, since the records of its investigation are not being made public.

However, in a letter to the editor that appeared in The Eagle on May 1, Stephen Bannon, chairman of the School Committee, wrote that "standard precautionary mea sures were maintained" at the time. Bannon on Friday de clined to expand on what those measures were, saying the district doesn’t comment on personnel matters.

The Muir investigation was re-opened in March when a third student came forward, alleging Muir raped her in his office on multiple occasions between 2003 and 2005.

The two students from the original investigation were re-interviewed and made similar accusations.

Muir’s case remains under investigation. He is out on $10,000 bail and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

To reach Trevor Jones:
tjones@berkshireeagle.com,
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