AUGUSTA — A Readfield couple is suing the Maranacook school district and Laura Reville, a fifth-grade teacher at Readfield Elementary School, charging that Reville placed a bag over their daughter’s head four times during class last year in an act aimed at humiliating and embarrassing her.

The complaint by Michelle and Adam Woodford on behalf of their daughter, referenced by the initials SW, was filed Nov. 18 in Kennebec County Superior Court by attorneys Seth Brewster and Neal Pratt. It also charges that Regional School Unit 38 violated the state Freedom of Access Act and an anti-bullying statute in connection with results of a school investigation into the incidents.

School Superintendent Donna Wolfrom this week referred all questions about the case to the district’s lawyer, while noting that “we are always concerned about the safety of our students. We never want students to be bullied, humiliated or embarrassed by anyone.”

Wolfrom said Reville is a longtime teacher in the district.

Neither defendant has filed an answer to the complaint with the court yet. However, Drummond Woodsum attorney Bruce W. Smith, who represents the school district, said via email Wednesday that “any allegations are unproven” and that “in addition, we represent many school districts, and I can tell you that, based on my experience, RSU 38’s school board, administrators and staff have an unparalleled commitment to promoting a safe and nurturing environment for all students.”

Brewster said that Smith so far has represented both the district and the teacher. “However, with the filing of the complaint, I am not sure that Bruce Smith will represent Laura Reville,” Brewster said via email Wednesday.

Reville, reached by phone Tuesday at her Vienna home, said she anticipated being represented by an attorney through the Maine Education Association. She had no other comment.

The lawsuit says the four head-bagging incidents occurred Sept. 15 through Nov. 7, 2015, and that a different teacher learned about it from students on Nov. 8, 2015, and reported it to Principal Jeff Boston that day. It says Wolfrom initiated an investigation as a result of that report.

It also says the Woodfords spoke with Reville about it on Nov. 10, 2015, and that she said the head-bagging was “in jest.”

The girl was removed from Reville’s classroom at the end of that month in response to the parents’ request, fueling “rumors that SW, a precocious and sensitive child, was too stupid to be in Reville’s classroom,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit charges Reville with “assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and a violation of the girl’s civil rights.” The complaint says no other children in the class had bags placed over their heads and that the girl “was subjected to bullying and other inappropriate conduct by other students.”

In another recent cased of alleged bullying, the Brunswick School District agreed to pay $125,000 to settle a human rights lawsuit brought by a former student who said school officials did not do enough to prevent bullying and abuse that he experienced at Brunswick Junior High School.

The Woodfords seek damages for counseling and medical expenses and for “severe emotional distress, humiliation (and) embarrassment,” among other things, as well as punitive damages.

The complaint says that between December 2015 and March 2016, the Woodfords repeatedly requested information about the investigation into Reville’s conduct, but were refused it.

The complaint says “(The Woodfords’) requests for information included questions such as: Was the complaint involving SW handled as hazing, harassment, bullying, abuse or staff standard of conduct? Why were authorities not called?”

It says the district’s refusal to release information violated the state law regarding bullying in public schools, and that the parents were denied a hearing before the school board. It also says attorney Smith, on behalf of the district, denied the Woodfords’ Oct. 20, 2016, request for access to documents relating to the investigation in a letter dated Oct. 26, 2016.

The Woodfords have asked in the complaint that a judge order the school district to provide the requested documents.

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.