AG says no criminal charges against Concord school officials for failing to report abuse

  • Howie Leung in court. 

Monitor staff
Published: 6/8/2021 3:13:28 PM

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office did not find evidence to support criminal charges against Concord School District officials for failing to report suspected child abuse, following an investigation into how district officials handled reports of sexual misconduct by former teacher Howie Leung.

“While our criminal investigation into this matter is complete, we must continue to ensure student safety is the top priority at the Concord School District,” Assistant Attorney General Heather Cherniske wrote in a letter to interim Superintendent Kathleen Murphy.

The Attorney General’s criminal investigation began in October 2019, following a request by a group of Concord citizens who were concerned about the district’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against Leung, while he was employed as a special education teacher and club advisor at Rundlett Middle School and Concord High School. 

Thousands of pages of documents were obtained and reviewed through a grand jury subpoena process, which remain sealed. 

Cherniske cited constructive steps district officials have taken to hire a Title IX coordinator and new administrators, as well as develop a response matrix, to comply with recommendations made by independent investigator Djuna Perkins in 2019.

“The Concord School District has taken the recommendations made in the Perkins Report seriously, and has begun to make positive changes to ensure that all state laws, rules and regulations created to keep our children safe are followed,” Cherniske wrote.

The Perkins Report had concluded in September 2019 that administrators failed to thoroughly investigate sexual misconduct complaints against Leung and implement “discipline of any consequence” prior to his arrest to ensure student safety. Perkins’ recommendations included establishing protocols for handling reports of sexual misconduct, reporting to a Title IX coordinator, training school staff in recognizing “red flags” of sexual misconduct and developing policies on things like teacher-student physical contact.

Leung often allowed a select group of students to eat lunch in his classroom, he gave students gifts of cash, wrote personal letters to them, and drove them in his car. Staff members who worked in Leung’s classroom expressed concerns about Leung regularly hugging a few chosen female students, but their complaints went unheeded.

“Failure to enforce such policies can enable boundary violations and sexual misconduct,” Perkins wrote. “Because sexual predators use ambiguity to perpetrate their crimes, even minor rule infractions can be indicators of potential boundary violations.”

The Attorney General’s investigation centered on whether district officials violated New Hampshire’s Child Protection Act, specifically the parts of the law that require school employees to report suspected child abuse to the NH Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). The Attorney General requested “huge amounts” of information from the district to review, according to Murphy.

Murphy said she and Title IX Coordinator Karen Fischer-Anderson met with the Attorney General’s Office officials in late May to present the steps the district has taken to follow the Perkins recommendations and update district policy.

“This is a positive report,” Murphy told the Concord School Board Tuesday. “I think it closes a piece of the concerns that you had over the last couple of years.”

Leung, who is accused of sexually assaulting a middle school student, is currently awaiting trial in Massachusetts, on charges that include aggravated rape of a child with a 10-year age difference, aggravated indecent assault and battery on a child under age 14, and aggravated indecent assault and battery on a person age 14 or older.

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