Perrin

Former Brattleboro Union High School Principal Steve Perrin

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BRATTLEBORO — School officials acknowledged a report detailing allegations of unwanted sexual and romantic advances from Brattleboro Union High School Principal Steve Perrin, who has been out on an unexplained leave of absence.

“I am having trouble finding words that feel suitable for sharing information knowing that it will affect our community so differently depending upon each individual,” Hannah Parker, dean of students at BUHS, wrote in an email to students Wednesday. “Some of the many ways we may all be affected differently might be the relationships people had with Mr. Perrin as a teacher, a colleague, an advisor, the topic of the article being triggering for staff or students who have experienced a trauma in their lifetime.”

Parker was referring to an article published in The Commons weekly newspaper Wednesday. The article details behavior alleged over several years at the high school, starting in 2010 and recently reported to authorities.

School Board Chairwoman Kelly Young, Board Vice Chairperson David Schoales and Superintendent Mark Speno did not respond to requests from the Reformer for comment on the report.

Perrin has been on paid leave since April, and school officials have declined to provide information on the reason. He told the Reformer on Wednesday that he is not able to comment on the report.

School officials remain mum on lack of leadership at BUHS

According to an incident report filed by the Brattleboro Police Department, the former student was interviewed by Windham County Safe Place in May.

“The behavior, while concerning as described, does not identify probable cause for a criminal offense,” the incident report states.

A recording of the interview was provided to attorney Aimee Goddard of Annis & Goddard in Brattleboro, according to the incident report. Goddard was hired by the school district to investigate sex abuse claims.

On Wednesday, State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver said no investigation has been forwarded to her office.

The School Board is anticipating lawsuits as a result of the investigation.

Lawsuits anticipated with sex abuse investigation

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In an email to BUHS families and staff, Speno said resources are available to help students who need “additional emotional support.”

“I am very proud of the current BUHS administration and staff in how they continue to show up every day and give all that they have to our children and the greater school community,” he wrote. “Often we can lose sight of all the positives that are taking place in our school but the fact is there is so much to be proud of. Amongst all of the challenges we have and will continue to face, I can guarantee you that we will continue to dedicate ourselves to every student. We are absolutely committed to our students, families and to ourselves to move forward and grow as a school community.”

In an interview, Interim Principal Cassie Damkoehler said she didn’t have time to call an all-staff meeting before school after seeing the article. She sent an email to staff and walked around the building, checking in with teachers. She said Speno came to the school and crafted an email, then Parker sent one.

An optional all-staff meeting was held after school.

“There’s a lot of emotion, which I think is to be expected,” Damkoehler said. “We have people who have been in the building for 30 years and have worked really closely with Steve and have a relationship with him outside of the school. ... I think it’s natural to worry about him as a person.”

Damkoehler said she had not been aware of the allegations earlier and teachers addressed concerns in classrooms in a trauma-informed way if students inquired.

“We talked a lot about find your people in the building who are resources for you and use them,” she said.

She anticipates advisory groups with no more than 25 or 30 students and three adults might gather to discuss the matter.

It is unclear when a decision will be made about Perrin’s employment status. Since April, Damkoehler said, she has heard there should be a resolution soon.

“I just need to continue to do my job to support the school community,” she said.

Bob Audette contributed reporting.