District defends actions in student rape case

Tuesday May 1, 2012

STOCKBRIDGE -- The Berkshire Hills Regional School District is defending the actions it took in 2004 when two students accused an employee of the Stockbridge Plain School of molesting them.

The employee, Scott Muir, wasn't charged at the time but 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.

Muir, 36, of Church Street, is out on $10,000 bail and is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on Thursday. He is currently on paid administrative leave from a number of town positions.

In a letter to the editor written on behalf of the district's School Committee, Chairman Stephen Bannon wrote that Principal Robert Putnam first received reports from two students in the spring of 2004 alleging misconduct by an employee. The employee is never named in Bannon's letter, though he confirmed on Monday it was referring to Muir.

Bannon wrote that Putnam, as a mandated reporter, reached out to the Department of Social Services (now the Department of Children and Families), and Superintendent Donna Moyer initiated an internal investigation before contacting state agencies seeking a full investigation.

"The school district handled itself appropriately," Bannon told The Eagle.

The Stockbridge Police Department recused itself from the case to avoid any perception of an unbiased investigation and the matter was referred to the Berkshire District Attorney's Office.

Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless has said previously that the information obtained in 2004 didn't warrant the filing of criminal charges. Bannon added that no additional complaints were made during Muir's employment with the district.

"While the current arrest and investigation may cause a retrospective review of actions taken," Bannon wrote, "we remain confident that all parties, including the state agencies, took the necessary and mandated steps at that time to investigate the reported incidents."

A DCF spokesperson confirmed that a report was received in 2004, but they declined to comment further on the case.

Muir is facing four counts of rape of a chid with force, six counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and one count of attempt to commit indecent assault and battery on a child under 14.

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 -- twice pulling up her shirt and once pulling up her dress and grabbing her buttocks over her underwear.

A third former student, now 16, came forward in March, accusing Muir of raping her in his office multiple times between 2003 and 2005. State police then contacted the other two students, who were interviewed again and made far more damning accusations against Muir.

In response to a question of why Muir wasn't placed on administrative leave during the 2004 investigation, Super intendent Peter Dillon, who wasn't part of the district at the time, said the "current allegations are troubling and significantly different than what was alleged in 2004."

Muir worked for the district from 2002 to 2007 as a student center support coordinator, a position responsible for assisting teachers in all areas, including controlling student behavior and improving student self esteem. The position also involved supervision in the cafeteria and playground and had a starting salary of $8.25 per hour. Muir was laid off due to a restructuring within the district. His position no longer exists.

Police reports and the District Attorney's Office had previously identified Muir as a school adjustment counselor.

He is currently on paid administrative leave from his town positions as captain of the fire department, town emergency management director and Town Offices facility manager, as well as his seat on the Board of Health. Muir earns a combined $48,370 annually for his various town positions.

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