NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — A North Kingstown middle school teacher accused by a family last year of isolating and stalking a pre-teen girl will avoid getting fired but has agreed to resign at the end of the school year.
A different teacher at North Kingstown High School, who was also put on leave amid accusations of inappropriate behavior, will be reinstated next week after school officials determined he isn’t a threat to students.
At the middle school level, North Kingstown school officials said the teacher — who they are not naming — has agreed to remain on leave until the end of the school year when he’s expected to resign.
“The teacher will not return to the classroom or resume coaching duties for the remainder of the year while on contractual leave,” Michael Waterman, the district’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.
The teacher has been on leave pending an internal investigation since last spring when a family came forward to accuse him of isolating and stalking their underage daughter beginning in 2017 when she was 12 years old.
The allegation, which was one of several made against the teacher by multiple students, was outlined in a letter last spring sent to state and federal officials, which highlighted that stalking was a Title IX violation. (Title IX prohibits any type of sex-based discrimination in schools.)
Attorney Matthew Oliverio, who lead the district’s probe into the allegations against the middle school teacher, “found that none of the allegations raised against the teacher or the school Department rose to the level of Title IX violations,” according to Waterman.
“It is important to note that the School Department complied with the requirements of the mandatory reporting statute and filed a report with the Rhode Island Department of Education in this matter when the complaints were originally filed,” Waterman said.
On Friday, the family’s attorney, Timothy Conlon, issued a statement lamenting that the family hadn’t been kept abreast of the personnel developments.
“We learn this not because of any notification to the family involved, but through back channel sources,” Conlon said, adding that he’s still seeking answers to why the family’s initial complaint in 2018 hadn’t been addressed.
He also questioned what would be done to create a formal record showing that there had been an issue with the teacher so that other districts might be aware should they consider hiring him in the future.
Conlon raised the concern in the context of former high school boys basketball coach Aaron Thomas, who was accused of inappropriate behavior before he was allowed to quietly resign in June 2021 ahead of a planned termination.
Thomas was quickly rehired at a neighboring Catholic school where school officials said they were unaware of the allegations, which included Thomas getting underage students naked and alone behind closed doors where he would conduct body-fat tests on them. The allegations spanned decades.
Thomas has since been charged with child molestation and sexual assault.
“We have one instance of a teacher that was the subject matter of an investigation resigning from NKSD and getting a position in another system down the road,” Conlon said. “Does NKSD intend to do anything differently?”
In the statement, Waterman said the school department agreed to “give a letter of employment dates and verifiable facts” to future employers, but it is unclear what those facts would include.
Waterman did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.
On Friday, school officials said attorney Thomas Groves investigated the allegations against the high school teacher who will be reinstated next week, concluding none of those allegations rose to the level of Title IX violations.
That teacher had been accused on acting inappropriately to students and was also placed on leave last spring pending the internal investigation.
Based on the recommendations in that report, Waterman said the teacher would transition back into his teaching job on Jan. 17, although he will have to follow a so-called Personal Improvement Plan within 18 months of it being developed in conjunction with the high school principal.
“In addition, upon the NKHS teacher’s own suggestion, they will not engage in any coaching or extracurricular school related activities going forward,” Waterman said.
The district did not immediately release copies of the internal investigations.