Great Barrington officials praise 'careful' and 'deliberate' operation

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Town officials on Monday sought to reassure residents that the weekend's law enforcement intervention at the Eagleton School was done in a "careful" and "deliberate" manner, while across town five school staffers accused of abusing disabled students were shuffled into district court.

"Great Barrington cares about its children, and our community is home to a number of public and private schools that cater to students from a variety of backgrounds," Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said in a statement. "I am proud of our police department's sensitivity to the issues and the needs of the children at Eagleton. They took a careful and cautious approach in their investigation and operations, meant to minimize any disruptions."

Great Barrington Police Chief William Walsh said the investigation remains "open and ongoing."

"We continue to work with the school and community," Walsh said. "Our No. 1 priority is keeping our children safe and secure."

Dozens of federal, state and local authorities descended on the campus on Saturday night to execute a search warrant in connection with an investigation about alleged abuse of students at the school. Five staff members were arrested and have entered not guilty pleas in Southern Berkshire District Court.

The school has issued no comment on the events, referring an Eagle journalist to its legal counsel, who did not respond to several phone calls on Monday.

"Our law enforcement is doing a professional and careful job and are proceeding with the process in a deliberate manner," Great Barrington Select Board Chairman Sean Stanton said. "Thankfully, we do not encounter situations like this often, and I am proud of the strong and professional response that shows our first responders are trained and prepared for any situation."

Great Barrington Selectboard Vice Chairman Stephen Bannon called Eagleton School an "important resource in our area," but said he found the allegations — which include emotional and physical abuse in addition to intimidation and obstruction of justice — "disturbing."

"Given our caring community, we know how important it is to work through this process," said Bannon, who also is chairman of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.


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