The former Kennebunk High School teacher who was acquitted this week of charges she had a sexual relationship with a male student said she does not regret how she handled the situation, and hopes the troubled young man who made the accusations against her gets the help that he needs.

In an interview with a TV news station, Jill Lamontagne described the pain of being arrested and the isolation she felt, while also being restricted from defending herself in public.

“It was really hard to stay quiet and to have the topic be reported about and having no chance to have my side out there too,” Lamontagne told News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ). “It felt like a scarlet letter was painted on me while my mouth was closed shut.”

But she also rebuffed any suggestion that it was inappropriate to communicate with a student via social media and text messaging.

“These kids or young adults live in this world of technology. It’s all they know, it’s what they’re attached to. Even email is old school for them,” LaMontagne said.

Lamontagne, 30, was tried on six Class C felony charges of gross sexual assault involving an individual over whom she had instructional, supervisory or disciplinary authority; two Class D misdemeanor charges of unlawful sexual contact; and six Class D misdemeanor charges of sexual abuse of a minor. The York County Superior Court jury of three men and nine women issued its verdict – not guilty on all 14 counts – after deliberating for about two hours.

The student, now 19, was 17 at the time he alleged the encounters occurred. The Press Herald does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes without their consent.

In the television interview that aired Friday, Lamontagne expressed relief at the verdict and said the predicament began with her attempts to help a troubled teenager graduate on time from Kennebunk High School.

She said a rumor had circulated before the charges involving her and the student, but they were ultimately dismissed, and she continued providing extra help to him so he could complete assignments.

“Should that (rumor) have been a red flag? Yes,” Lamontagne said. “But I could see how emotionally disturbed this student was, and I didn’t think there was anyone else in his life helping him.”

LaMontagne said she also was concerned about his safety.

“He was depressed and impulsive. I told it to him a million times. That’s a terrible combination, and I knew he struggled with addiction, and there wasn’t a whole lot of support at home,” she said, adding later: “I hope he gets the help he needs.”

Texting and using social media to contact the boy was a conscious decision, Lamontagne said, adding that many of her conversations were about logistics and trying to get the teen to show up to his appointments with her to receive academic help.

“He was irresponsible, he didn’t show up often,” she said. “He was also really difficult to talk to face-to-face. He was really confrontational and angry. So a text felt like the safest way I could communicate with him. A lot of times I was asking him where he was or if he was coming.”

A message left for the student seeking comment Friday night was not returned.

Lamontagne, a Kennebunk resident, said she does not know what her future will bring, or whether she will ever get back into the classroom at Kennebunk, which she said is her dream job.

On Thursday, after the jury found Lamontagne not guilty, Regional School Unit 21 Superintendent Kathryn Hawes said the former health teacher had “demonstrated a troubling failure” to comply with the district’s standards involving communications with students.

During the year in which her case was pending, Lamontagne said she cried in the shower so her young children couldn’t hear, but that come Christmas time, her daughter asked Santa Claus for her mother to stop crying all the time.

“My heart just broke,” she said. “I felt I had done such a good job hiding it.”

Lamontagne said she will continue in trauma counseling, and that she hasn’t made any big decisions about what happens next in her life.

“I’m a big believer in fate and that things happen for a reason,” she said. “I can’t find the reason for why this happened, but I can’t live in a world of regret.”

 

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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