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Officials mull counselor's dismissal

Last modified: 4/11/2012 12:00:00 AM
Hopkinton school officials say they are unsure if the district will seek dismissal of a guidance counselor accused of repeatedly punching and kicking his 74-year-old relative in a Manchester parking garage Friday.

Gene Fox, who has worked at the town's middle / high school for seven years, was placed on paid administrative leave Sunday after being charged with the assault. Superintendent Steve Chamberlin said yesterday the district is still gathering information about the incident, adding that it's too early to know what action will be taken.

"For us it's fact finding now, trying to gain as much information as we can to see if this has a long-term implication on Mr. Fox's employment or a short-term implication," Chamberlin said.

While on leave, 63-year-old Fox continues to receive benefits and payment of his $64,906 annual salary, according to Chamberlin.

While he could not speak specifically to Fox's case, Chamberlin said in general he has jurisdiction to seek dismissal of an employee if a cause to do so arises. Within 15 days, the employee could request a hearing before the school board, where Chamberlin said he would make the case for dismissal.

The call would ultimately fall to the school board, Chamberlin said.

School board Chairman David Luneau said the group discussed the matter at its regular board meeting Monday night.

"We certainly indicated to the superintendent that we need to be sure that the safety of our students continues to be met, and that's absolutely important to the functioning of our school district, and that all of our employees continue to have the respect and credibility necessary to discharge their duties," he said.

Gene Fox did not return a request for comment.

He was arraigned Sunday on a charge of second-degree assault, a Class B felony, for allegedly attacking his uncle, Neal Fox of Bethel, Vt. Neal Fox said he was in Manchester for a probate court arbitration session regarding guardianship of his brother, Gene Fox's father, who is suffering from dementia. Neal Fox said his nephew grew angered after the meeting, approached him in the parking garage and punched him in the face.

"I know I was unconscious because when I finally was able to make sense, I had seen him step on my glasses, which had fallen off, and then he stepped on me, my torso, my lower stomach . . . and then again on my chest, my chest nearest my neck, and then he was gone," Neal Fox said earlier.

Neal Fox said the guardianship matter in his family has been contentious but said he was unsure why his nephew attacked him.

Lt. Maureen Tessier of the Manchester Police Department said there are video cameras in the garage but she does not think the incident was captured.

Fox has not entered a plea and was released on a $5,000 bail. A probable cause hearing is scheduled for May 2.

A state Department of Education official said yesterday she could not discuss Fox's case but that in general the department does not begin investigations until a court determination has been made. Judith Fillion, director of the department's Division of Program Support, said those investigations can result in suspension or revocation of state certification.

Chamberlin said Fox primarily works at the school on college counseling with 10th- through 12th-graders. Both he and Luneau said they have not heard any strong concerns from parents or students following the incident.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com.)


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