The former Hawthorne School and current home to the Brunswick School Department administrative offices. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — A Brunswick High School graduate wants the school department to launch an investigation into the scope and breadth of sexual violence within schools and to increase education around sexual assault after recent allegations of abuse against a former Brunswick High School teacher. 

Luka Baskett, who is not the same student who made the accusation, sent a letter to the Brunswick School Department earlier this week asking administration to craft “a powerful and sensitive plan to increase education about sexual violence and predatory behavior so that our school can prosper.” About 150 community members and former Brunswick High School students signed on in support of the letter. 

In the letter, Baskett said her “loyalty and appreciation to BHS” inspired her to follow the lead of the “courageous recent graduate” who recently came forward with allegations of sexual abuse against Mike Scarpone, a former Brunswick music teacher. 

“BHS is filled with brilliance and opportunity, but unfortunately for many students, there is an equal part of BHS that is filled with guilt, shame, suffering and humiliation,” Baskett wrote. “The beautiful town of Brunswick is progressive and understanding, and I’m confident that my voice is not alone in requesting a change to the absolutely senseless trauma affecting our young students.”

The school department must determine the scope and the breadth of sexual violence within the schools, she said, while also conducting “extensive training on appropriate relationships with students so that this line to sexual assault and grooming could never be crossed.”

Students also need to be further educated about predatory behavior so they avoid becoming perpetrators themselves and so they may better protect themselves from such behavior, she added. 

In talking with the community about the letter, Baskett said she had more than 30 people come forward to share their own experience with sexual assault during or shortly after their time at Brunswick High School. 

“Not all of these assaults were committed by BHS staff or students,” she said, “but I believe lack of education regarding sexual assault contributed to the susceptibility of the BHS community.”

Phillip Potenziano, who officially stepped in as superintendent of schools on Wednesday, said in an email that he agrees with the sentiments in Baskett’s letter. 

The Brunswick School Department is working on a plan of action, he said, which will include research and information gathering as well as community input. 

Last week, the School Board Policy Committee started a review of the school policy surrounding staff conduct with students, and officials hope to have a “thorough and instructive” version of the policy in the fall. 

“Our country, our state and our town are grappling with difficult and sensitive issues at this moment in time – issues including racial injustice and sexual assault, that for far too long have been swept under the rug,” Potenziano said. “While I am new to Brunswick School Department, I am not new to helping school districts tackle difficult issues head-on, through community involvement, education and training.” 

Potenziano most recently worked as interim superintendent in RSU 21, where he proposed Affirmative Action training to the school board after reports of racially motivated incidents at Kennebunk High School.

“The town of Brunswick has a wonderful history of being progressive and understanding,” Potenziano said, “and from my perspective, the Brunswick School Department is committed to being a mirror of our community’s values and to being open, honest and transparent in how it moves forward to address some of the most difficult and painful issues of our times.”

The allegations

Earlier this month, The Portland Press Herald reported that Mike Scarpone, a former Brunswick High School music teacher was accused of sexually abusing a former student more than a year while the student was still in school. The Times Record does not identify the victims of alleged assaults without their consent. 

The student, who uses the nonbinary pronouns they/them, wrote in a post on social media that Scarpone groomed them from the age of 14 and eventually pursued a sexual and romantic relationship when the student was 17. 

Assistant Superintendent Shawn Lambert told the Press Herald that Scarpone was an instrumental music teacher at Brunswick High School from August 2010 to August 2019. Lambert said Scarpone did not receive any disciplinary notices during that time. He resigned voluntarily in 2019 and “parted amicably from the Brunswick School Department,” Lambert wrote in an email. Lambert said there were no allegations of sexual misconduct against Scarpone while he was employed in Brunswick, and the department did not learn about this allegation until it was reported by Scarpone’s most recent employer, the Cape Elizabeth School Department.

“We conducted an internal review of Mr. Scarpone’s file and interviewed key personnel and could not identify any known or suspected sexual misconduct during his employment,” Lambert said. “We have since been contacted by an investigator from the Department of Health and Human Services with whom we are cooperating.”

The former student said they have spoken to school and state officials, as well as an officer from the Brunswick Police Department.

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