GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 2, 2013

Police find no crime in West Parish case

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — The Gloucester Police Department has found no criminal conduct and has wrapped up what Police Chief Leonard Campanello called a “procedural investigation” into the still undisclosed incident at West Parish Elementary School that led to the immediate shut down of West Parish’s previous after-school program last month.

“At this time we don’t have any reason to believe that any intentional illegal activity took place,” Campanello said Monday, reiterating that the incident was not related to drugs or any other substances.

Parents and other sources have told the Times that the children involved in the incident — which led to an immediate March 1 shutdown of the program, sparked an emergency meeting involving Campenallo, School Superintendent Richard Safier and Mayor Carolyn Kirk that night, and touched off a probe involving Gloucester Police, the District Attorney’s Office and the state’s Department of Families and Children — involved children as young as 7 or 8 years old reportedly breaking away from the supervised group and “acting inappropriately.” .

Campanello said that, while there are no criminal charges, police will continue reviewing all documentation resulting from the March 1 incident.

Safier did not return calls for comment Monday.

Three program supervisors and a substitute were ousted from the after school program, before the YMCA took over after school entertainment for the children with new programming beginning March 14.

In a letter to parents March 1, Safier wrote that the prior program was suspended indefinitely because of the program’s “inability to provide adequate supervision” of students. But neither he nor other school officials have specified whether the pervious program leaders — School Department employees — were fired or simply transferred to other positions and/or duties.

Campanello has also noted that the investigation and the incident or incidents were confined to the after-school program, which served 82 students from 60 families in West Parish’s K-5 grades, and did not involve any other aspects of the school.

Campanello said Monday at the completion of the police investigation that the school is safe, and police must continue using discretion because of the case’s sensitive nature.

”We are confident that the West Parish school is a safe environment for all children, and we’ll continue to investigate any new information that becomes available,” Campanello said.

”We appreciate the cooperation of all involved, including the School Department and parents,” he added. “We understand that this was apprehensive for some parents and we appreciate the understanding that whenever children are involved in an investigation the highest level of discretion and privacy must be observed.”

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.