2017-07-07 / Community

Sex charge roils Kennebunk community

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — A recent protection from abuse filing has brought to light a sex scandal that has wafted in the winds at Kennebunk High School since March, and and burst into the public realm last week.

On June 27, Judge Daniel Driscoll granted a protection from abuse order in Biddeford District Court requiring that KHS lead health teacher Jill Lamontagne, 29, have no contact with a recent graduate, age 17.

The former student’s mother filed the protection request on behalf of her son on June 14, five days after he reportedly tried to commit suicide by downing a mixture of Tylenol, ibuprofen, cold medicine, and Warfarin.

According to statement made by the mother in the civil protection complaint, her son referred to a rumored sexual relationship between himself and Lamontagne, investigated in March by RSU 21 administration, the Kennebunk Police Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

At that time Lamontagne was tutoring the student in order to help him meet graduation requirements. RSU Superintendent Katie Hawes declined to say in a June 29 interview what subjects the tutoring was in and whether it involved Lamontagne and the boy ever spending time together unsupervised in or out of school.

However, Hawes said, “we heard from kids” on March 30 that Lamontagne and the student had been engaged in a sexual relationship.

“We put her out on leave immediately, and reported to police and DHHS child protective services, because we are mandated reporters, so we are legally required to do that, and then we all conducted an investigation,” Hawes said.

“The student denied it and we didn’t have evidence to support that there had been an abusive situation. So, on the advice of legal council we brought her back to work with some measures in place,” Hawes said.

Kennebunk Police and DHHS also closed the case. The entire investigation took four business days, Hawes said, with Lamontagne on paid leave from March 31 to April 7.

Hawes declined to describe the nature of the restrictions placed on Lamontagne after she returned to work, “because they were personnel disciplinary measures.”

However, she did say Lamontagne did not tutor the student after that time.

“We take staff and student safety very seriously,” Hawes said. “Whenever there is an allegation of abuse we separate the parties while we do a complete investigation to figure out whether or not there is substantial evidence and actively work to keep both parties comfortable and safe in the learning environment.

On June 12, the student’s mother visited Hawes to say that, following the suicide attempt he admitted to lying when he’d earlier denied having a physical relationship with Lamontagne. The teacher was “immediately” put back on paid leave and a new investigation launched, Hawes said.

In the June 14 court filing, the boy’s mother wrote that her son said, while at Maine Medical Center, that as a result of the alleged suicide attempt that, “I lied, it was all true.”

“He stated it was all true and he was sorry, so sorry for all the bad things he did,” the mother wrote in the complaint. “He said he loved her, that it happened numerous times, in the classroom, at her house, in her car. She told him that she hadn’t had a sexual relationship in two years. He stated that he can’t believe it — that she used him. But then he said that he wanted the relationship, that he loved her.”

According to the mother, her son admitted to the relationship — said to have started with Lamontagne performing oral sex, and then progressed to “fooling around” at Lamontagne’s home during a school workshop day — in front of an aunt and a registered nurse, as well as herself, and then later to a psychiatrist.

However, Lamontagne’s attorney, Kristine Hanly, said in a June 30 email that her client “adamantly denies” all allegations of an inappropriate relationship with the minor boy.

“Ms. Lamontagne agreed to the no-contact order requested by the mother of the former student simply because she has no reason to have contact with the student,” Hanly wrote in an emailed statement. “I would caution against considering any allegation made in the complaint as factual. The complaint was filed in civil court by a third party with no direct knowledge of the veracity of the allegations.”

“To be clear,” Hanly said, “Ms. Lamontagne in no way admitted to the allegations contained in the complaint by agreeing to a no-contact order. Because the parties agreed to an order without any findings, the judge heard no testimony, reviewed no evidence, nor did he consider the contents of the complaint. The court merely formalized the agreement of no-contact requested by the parties and made no findings of fact. These allegations are entirely untested and unproven.”

Kennebunk Deputy Police Chief Mike Nugent said on Friday that his department is investigating the case, however, beyond that he declined comment while the case remains open.

A detective assigned to the case was still conducting interviews and it was unclear how long that process might take, he said.

Attempts to reach the boy’s parents were unsuccessful and there was no answer at the Lamontagne home.

Lamontagne is a lifelong resident of Kennebunk. Her father, David Mitchell, is a math teacher at Kennebunk High School and former assistant principal at the school. Lamontagne has worked at the school for five years.

Asked to provide copies of her communications to the school board about the incident, Hawes supplied an email from June 14, in which she advised, “There have been some recent legal developments that have resulted in a court filing.”

Board members where told to refer expected media inquiries to Hawes or board chairman Mary- Beth Luce.

“Please be reassured that we are following proper protocols and legal advice and keeping student safety at the forefront,” Hawes wrote, asking that Luce call her to discuss “talking parameters.”

“We as a board and as a district take any and all allegations of this sort extremely seriously. We certainly put the safety of our students and our staff at the first and foremost,” Luce said. “We are working as a district collaboratively with all of the agencies involved in this situation, but at this point this has not been an issue that has been raised to the board level for any sort of action.

“I do not have any details beyond what has been publically released in the papers, frankly, at this point,” Luce said. “Because, should there be a personnel issue that raises to the board level, we are not privvy to any information prior to that coming to the board.”

Luce said that at the time of the March incident,

“We were only aware that there was a personnel issue that was being investigated at the high school and that the administration was taking appropriate action. Again, the board is specifically not given any information that would impede any sort of personnel hearing, should it come to the board level.”

Asked if the board was ever made aware of the nature of the investigation, Luce said, “We were not,” adding that the board was “made aware” of an incident at all in the June 14 email, which only mentioned a court filing not what it was about.

“Really, that is the extent to which the board has been given information, other than certainly what has come out in the papers that everyone now knows, but we have not been given any more specific information,” Luce said.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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