INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATOR: 4 Students Were Abused By Educator At Wildwood Early Childhood Center Over Past 2 Years

WILMINGTON, MA — At a special meeting on Monday night, an independent investigator announced his conclusions that 4 students were abused in Classroom #7 at the Wildwood Early Childhood Center — 3 during the 2020-2021 school year and 1 during the 2019-2020 school year.

Attorney Patrick Hanley, of Butters Brazillian LLP, released the Executive Summary of his report, which can be read in its entirety at the link below.

Executive Summary of 2021 Wildwood School Investigation

Hanley conducted 36 interviews of 31 separate people, while reviewing pertinent documents, photographs, personnel records, statements to police, and recorded interviews conducted by others. All documents he requested were received. He also communicated and received assistance from the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Wilmington Police Department, and Department of Children and Families (DCF).

“Based on credible evidence that I gathered during this investigation, I conclude that one of the staff assigned to Classroom 7 grabbed, held and shoved with the staff member’s foot students assigned to Classroom 7 this school year and in prior years,” wrote Hanley. “I find this by a preponderance of the evidence.”

Hanley noted the same employee was reprimanded in 2014 for inappropriate conduct. The conduct did not involve physical contact with students. The employee did not challenge the finding 7 years ago.

“There is no evidence that the second staff member assigned to Classroom 7 grabbed and, as a result, hurt any students assigned to Classroom 7,” continued Hanley. “Given the amount of time that [the two staff members] spent with each other over the last four years working in Classroom 7, I find it implausible that the second staff member never saw the first staff member grab, hold or shove students with the staff member’s foot.”

Regarding the school’s leadership, Hanley concluded that “there is no evidence to support the conclusion that the principal saw the staff member grab, hold and shove with a foot students assigned to Classroom 7 this school year. The evidence revealed that the principal learned of the allegations when they were made.”

During this school year, the principal did conduct an investigation of allegations of abuse made by a student from Classroom 7. The staff member in question was not initially named in this particular allegation. The principal concluded her investigation after finding insufficient evidence to support a violation occurred.

“Additional allegations followed,” wrote Hanley. “Based on repeat allegations of violations against this staff member, WPS placed the staff member on administrative leave, pending further investigation.”

Hanley also offered comments on the district’s investigation prior to his hiring.

“When the current leadership of Wildwood and the District learned of the allegations this school year, they investigated the lens through the lens of the District’s bullying and harassments policies. Their investigation concluded that there was not evidence to support that there had been a violation of either the District’s bullying or harassments policies,” explained Hanley. “At the time that WPS conducted their investigation this year, the allegations and details thereof were limited. I was hired once more details and more victims came to light.  Consequently, the investigation that WPS hired me to conduct, by design, was broader than the investigation that the District had conducted.”

In response to the investigation, Wilmington School Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand said the district will expand training & professional development around (1) mandated reporting training; (2) safety-care training; and (3) additional training for administrators. Additionally, the district added a counselor at the Early Childhood Center level and 2 social emotional learning & family engagement specialists (1 is a safety-care trainer), plus additional educational assistant positions have been posted for the ABA programs.

“A situation like this impacts each person’s in this room & in the community in different & deeply personal ways,” said Brand at the end of his presentation. “Abuse and mistreatment of students is wholly unacceptable, counter to our values and will not be tolerated.”

Brand — who was limited in what he could say due to personnel records law, student privacy, and pending litigation — did not take questions from the audience, but the investigator was able to field some questions without using identifying language.

Attorneys for some of the families spoke out during the Q&A period. One requested to see the entire 20+ page report and supplemental report with the necessary redactions, not just the 4-page executive summary. The attorney noted that allegations of abuse from this educator go back more than a decade. Another attorney, as well as multiple parents, emphasized that the district failed by not notifying DCF (51A) when the abuse allegations came to light. One parent claimed her child told three mandated reporters from the schools about the abuse and none of them notified DCF.

The meeting was televised live by WCTV and will be available on www.wctv.org shortly.

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