Letter to the Editor:
The recent story concerning shocking allegations at the Stony Brook School in Brewster gave me pause to reflect on the professional responsibilities of an administrator versus the obligations of law enforcement to investigate and, with probable, cause file charges. The framework of our criminal justice system requires elements to be proven in a court of law and to meet the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. However, what is often lost in this process is the fact that the administrative burden of proof is “preponderance of the evidence.” In other words, one can be investigated and disciplined, up to and including being fired, from a job for a lesser burden than being convicted in criminal court. A person can be found “not guilty” in criminal court but yet be culpable administratively because of the different standard where the rules of evidence don’t apply and hearsay is admissible.
Last year a story broke about the Stony Brook School principal and the accusations were troubling. The outcome of the criminal charges notwithstanding, did the superintendent of schools order any independent and administrative investigation for the purpose of fact finding? Did any person neglect their fundamental responsibility? These are legitimate questions. The superintendent stated at the time in a letter to parents, “I am confident that she continues to be a viable leader of all students, staff and families of Stony Brook Elementary.” The vote of confidence may have been reassuring to some but it ignores the core questions that just referenced. It appears that after the principal was involved in an incident in Mashpee that the superintendent did not seek a comprehensive investigation to determine the judgment, temperament and professional maturity of the principal to determine her suitability and fitness for office.
The concern is compounded after learning about the arrest of an accused pedophile at Stony Brook School. In these circumstances, the actions of the Brewster Police Department must be independent of any determination of the accused Stony Brook employee. Due process must run on parallel courses to ensure the safety and interests of our students.
In the aftermath of these heinous allegations, the superintendent arranged a meeting for all parents and coordinated counseling. Those efforts should be commended. However, weeks later there is no reference to any impartial and competent administrative investigation underway. Such investigation should be conducted to determine facts, and to further establish who knew what and when? Did any person fail to act by performing his or her essential functions? These answers are critical to restoring public trust. The focus is simple. Did any staff member or administrative personnel fail to protect the students by act or omission? If any staff member or administrative leader engaged in misconduct, they must be held accountable so that the dedicated and professional public servants at Stony Brook are not painted with a broad brush of suspicion or lost confidence. In order for us to all move ahead, we must find out what is behind us. I call upon parents of students and the media to pursue these answers.