My Turn: Real concerns about Concord School District

For the Monitor
Published: 7/17/2019 9:28:03 AM

In response to Heidi Crumrine’s article (Sunday Monitor Forum, July 14), I’d like to express my concerns as a Hopkinton parent since my district sends some of our students to Concord under a contract.

In 2014, then-Rundlett Middle School Principal Tom Sica, who is now the principal at Concord High, suspended a 13-year-old child after she tried to express concern over the grooming behaviors of Howie Leung. Instead of calling the authorities to investigate or even look into the behaviors of the teacher on his own, Sica silenced a student whose concerns were later validated when that very same teacher was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a minor.

On Dec. 10, 2018, Concord School District was alerted that Leung had engaged in inappropriate conduct with a senior but school officials did not report it to police. Even after being notified, the district administration allowed him to continue teaching until March 27. It is critical to note that Leung had broad access to children with disabilities and other minor children during this time. Why was he allowed to continue working? Why did the administration not place him on leave immediately to protect vulnerable children?

After reading on June 29 that “Concord teachers union reps tried to disprove Leung’s student accusers,” I question why teachers and the administration did not call police and DCYF when a teacher was reported for kissing a student. I question why a guidance counselor and an art teacher, who are not trained in criminal investigations, conducted their own “internal investigations,” even if acting in their union representative capacity.

I am gravely concerned for any student who interacted with or reported anything to guidance counselor Karen Slick. A guidance counselor is often the first line of reporting for students. Students seek comfort and safety in their care. How can students feel safe and comfortable with her? If she worked so hard to discredit students who reported abuse by a teacher, how can she be trusted with students? How can Jeff Fullam, the art teacher, be entrusted with minors under his care if he also worked so hard to not believe students who reported a serious ethics violation? In their letter of Feb. 9, both staff tried to make children doing the right thing look like liars.

On June 30, an article headlined “Former Concord High School student sues district for Title IX violations” reported that administrators stand accused of botching an investigation into the sexual assault of a student by another student on a school bus. How dare they conduct an investigation on the sexual assault of a minor on their own before even deciding to notify Deerfield police as an afterthought. After all this, the student is left both with trauma and broken trust in a failed system. She was so scarred she had to leave the Concord school system entirely.

What about other students who have not come forward? These students see that adults don’t believe them or trust them, and they certainly don’t feel safe. Professionals and experts must be called in to both encourage reporting and to support these children through unimaginable trauma.

I agree with Crumrine that there are some good accomplishments in Concord. However, when students are silenced and disbelieved, assaults are not reported, there is continued lack of transparency, and teachers and administrators alike work hard to protect wrongdoers, it is very hard, if not impossible, to focus on accomplishments. Innocent children are not being protected in Concord schools.

(Darlene Gildersleeve lives in Hopkinton.)

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