By Beth David, Editor
An incident at LL. Wood School in Fairhaven that has been getting lots of play on social media seems to have been blown way out of proportion to what actually happened.
Fairhaven Superintendent of Schools Tara Kohler said the incident was handled appropriately. The reason a district-wide notice did not go out, she said, is that the incident simply did not rise to the level of requiring that kind of notice. The parents of the students involved were notified.
Ms. Kohler was rather sparse with details, saying she could not comment on a personnel matter.
Through a variety of sources, the Neighb News has ascertained that a per diem cafeteria worker apparently hugged or comforted a student and the student reported being uncomfortable with the touch.
The school has a strict policy about touching students.
The worker, contrary to rumors, was not fired or charged with anything. As a per diem worker, she was simply not asked to return.
The woman was new to the school, which added a layer of unfamiliarity with students. The woman’s ethnic culture also may have played a role.
She simply did not understand that she was not supposed to touch students.
The alleged incident happened in the cafeteria with a lot of people around. Lunch time includes the students, lunch monitors, cafeteria workers, and other staff. That probably contributed to how quickly the story spread, said Ms. Kohler.
She said she always encourages students to come forward if anything makes them uncomfortable.
“I’m proud of any student who brings forward anything,” said Ms. Kohler.
Had it been the kind of incident that the rumors are implying, she said a statement would have gone out.
“But I can say if what was on social media were true they would’ve heard from me directly,” said Ms. Kohler.
At least one parent did talk to her directly and was satisfied with the response.
Annemarie Vinci Chagnon posted on Parents of Fairhaven School District Facebook Group page that the conversation was “very assuring.”
“I came away from talking to her with a good feeling and I would encourage anyone with questions to please send her an email directly,” wrote Ms. Chagnon. “After speaking with her I can assure you she is taking this matter very seriously and is acting with an abundance of caution for our Wood School kids.”
Ms. Chagnon also said she wished she had known about it before she found out from her child, who was directly affected by the incident.
Sara Aiello posted that she knows the accused woman and works in the cafeteria with her, and she is a “sweet woman.”
“English is her second language and I think that everything is getting blown out of proportion,” said Ms. Aiello in her post.
She said it was not sexual in nature and the woman was new to the job, so she just did not understand that she was not supposed to touch students.
“I don’t think she was aware whatsoever that what she was doing was making them uncomfortable. Esp[ecially] because on any given day, kids are giving hugs, high 5s, having conversations, or just being silly with the other adults in there!”
Ms. Chagnon also noted in one of her posts that students are just coming out of two years of social distancing, so this may have seemed “even more jarring to them.”
Ms. Kohler said she would talk to anyone whose child was “even remotely involved” in the incident.
But she has little patience for the “storytelling” and maligning of the woman’s character.
“I’m in this job for the kids,” said Ms. Kohler. “And I’m honest. If there was something of that nature, I’ll own it and deal with it.”
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