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Harwood officials to consider substitute teacher policies

08/09/2007

By Erin Post

Harwood Union officials plan to take a closer look at their policies regarding substitute teachers at a school board meeting this month.

School board chair Scott Mackey said a final report on possible changes to the school's hiring and training policies is expected at the August 15 school board meeting.

Administrators were tasked with studying the issue after an 18-year-old St. Michael's College student who had served as a substitute teacher at Harwood was charged this spring with sexually assaulting an eighth-grade girl from the school.

According to published reports, Jeremy Mullins of South Duxbury pleaded innocent in Vermont District Court in June and was released on conditions.

The charge stemmed from an alleged incident on April 7. According to police, Mullins met the student outside of the high school on the night of a school play. He then drove her to a parking lot where he allegedly sexually assaulted her.

Mullins had been removed from the substitute list in March, several weeks before the alleged incident. School officials took that action after they received reports that Mullins had sent inappropriate e-mails to the student. According to minutes of a June select board meeting, the school also contacted the state Department of Children and Families Services (DCF) and the student's family.

Discussions since Mullins was charged have revolved around whether more stringent qualifications -- including a minimum age -- should be required of substitute teachers.

Possibilities the school board have discussed include instituting a multi-day training for new substitutes as well as creating several permanent substitute positions.

Mackey said the school is "not leaning towards" a minimum age for substitutes, although more details will be available when administrators report to the school board August 15.

As for hiring permanent substitutes -- long-term employees who may have additional training -- the potential financial impact on the school will have to carefully studied, Mackey said. Budgeting for health insurance, benefits and additional pay would have to be considered.

Harwood Union High School Principal Duane Pierson was out of the office this week and could not be reached for comment.

According to state law, substitute teachers must be high school graduates and must pass a criminal background check. In addition to the background and reference checks, Mackey said substitute teacher candidates at Harwood are interviewed by administrators prior to being placed on the substitute list.

Contact Erin Post at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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