A former Portland special education teacher has settled a federal lawsuit against the school district and former Superintendent Xavier Botana.

Eric Poulin, who worked in the special ed classroom at Ocean Avenue Elementary School where a student was abused, raised concerns about staffing levels and lack of support from administration. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Eric Poulin sued in U.S. District Court in April, alleging he was terminated in violation of the First Amendment, the Maine Human Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Maine Whistleblowers Protection Act for speaking out about staffing shortages.

A notice of the settlement was filed Friday, though the terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

James Clifford, Poulin’s attorney, said in an email Monday that the lawsuit was resolved with “mutual satisfaction of all parties.” He did not answer other questions, including what the precise conditions of the settlement were. Poulin also did not answer questions about the filing.

A spokesperson for the Portland school district said that “as part of the settlement, the parties involved are not providing comment beyond the fact that a settlement was reached to the satisfaction of both parties.”

In response to a Freedom of Access Act request for the settlement document, Superintendent Ryan Scallon said it has not yet been finalized.


Melissa Hewey, the attorney representing the school district and Botana, did not respond to messages asking to discuss the agreement.

Poulin worked for the district in an Ocean Avenue Elementary School K-1 classroom for high-needs special education students from November 2020 until Aug. 31, 2022, when the district did not renew his contract.

The lawsuit claimed that the district did not renew his contract because he spoke out about staff shortages and subsequent health and safety risks to students during the 2021-22 school year. The district said it was due to general performance.

An employee he supervised, Benjamin Conroy, was arrested in October 2021 and charged with sexual exploitation of a minor in Poulin’s classroom.

Following the arrest, Botana publicly stated that Conroy was not alone with the victim because of staffing shortages. Instead, he said, “we believe that the issue was a lack of explicitly documented expectations around staff being alone with a student.”

Poulin said that was inaccurate and spoke to a Portland Press Herald reporter about staffing shortages within the district’s program for high-needs students. Other Portland staff working in the program said at the time that staff shortages had led to safety challenges.

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