BRATTLEBORO — Fact finding is still underway in an investigation into sexual abuse within the Windham Southeast School District, and details about the process remain sparse.
At a School Board meeting Tuesday, Chairwoman Kelly Young said she provided questions that members of the public asked at the last meeting to the school district’s attorney, who shared them with attorney Aimee Goddard, leader of the investigation.
Young noted that the probe has not moved beyond its initial phase.
“Attorney Goddard’s investigation is still ongoing,” Young said. “She continues to gather information and interview individuals. That said, the board appreciates the questions raised and is in the process of working on the next steps to move the investigation into the next phase. I think we can all assume that this would not stay in one phase forever, and so we first need to move it into the next phase and hopefully at some point come to some completion in order to best serve the needs of the investigation and the district.”
Young said the board appreciates the community’s patience and understanding that the process takes time. She encouraged anyone with information that might be relevant to reach out. Contact information is available at southernvermontlaw.com/wsesd.
Mindy Haskins Rogers, a Brattleboro Union High School alum, prompted the investigation. Haskins Rogers reported in The Commons weekly newspaper about a year-and-a-half ago about allegations against a now-retired teacher.
Now, she wants to know more about the burden of proof being used when considering reports.
“Essentially, you’ve hired a criminal defense lawyer to receive these reports,” Haskins Rogers told the board. She said a civil lawsuit requires proving that it’s more likely than not the abuse happened, whereas criminal prosecution is held to a higher standard.
Haskins Rogers also raised concerns about cases Goddard is currently handling as reported in recent articles in the Reformer. Goddard is quoted as calling a 15-year-old victim’s testimony “not credible” and helped get an alleged domestic abuser released on bail, even though he had recently caused a lot of injuries to someone, Haskins Rogers said.
“I think that there are some detrimental things in the messaging that call into question how reliable this investigation could be or how willing survivors might go to her,” Haskins Rogers said.
Young said she has no way of clarifying the question about burden of proof, that she’s not familiar with Goddard’s other clients, and that she doesn’t think it’s appropriate for board members to comment on them.
“She is an attorney, and I’m sure that she represents lots of people who someone would have an issue with their representation,” Young said.
Haskin Rogers asked why a criminal defense attorney was hired to handle the investigation, as such issues might have been foreseen.
“My recollection is that she had experience in these type of matters,” Young said.
Board member Michelle Luetjen Green recalled considering a number of attorneys who were qualified, reputable and local to the area.
“We leaned towards a female person that could support the community,” she said.
Young noted the board looks at experience and skills when hiring.
Jaci Reynolds of Brattleboro, former board member, asked if the public will be given metadata, or summarized data, about the investigation. Community members have requested for non-identifying information, such as the number of reports and interviews.
Young said the board is “moving forward in the looking at what’s the next step in the investigation” and relying on advice from professionals.
Ben Berg, a nonvoting student member of the board, previously inquired about the progress of the investigation. Young told him she couldn’t share any more information at the moment.
“That’s the legal advice that we have paid for,” Young said. “We can’t jeopardize the ongoing investigation by further commenting, so we are moving on.”