Gloucester police and the Gloucester Public Schools are investigating an allegation of sexual assault brought by a female student against an unidentified staff member of the city's schools.

In a Tuesday letter to the school community, Superintendent Richard Safier said the alleged incident "is said to have occurred in the past" and was communicated by the alleged victim Monday morning to another school staff member.

Safier said the staff member accused of the assault has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation by the school system and police.

"Upon learning of the allegation, we immediately began an investigation and took steps to ensure both the physical and emotional well-being of the student while the investigation is pending," Safier wrote. "We will continue to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation of the allegation in coordination with the Gloucester Police Department."

Safier did not identify the accused staffer in his communication to the school community or in a later interview.

In the subsequent interview, Safier also declined to specify where the staffer works within the school system. He also declined to specify where the alleged assault occurred or whether the accusation involves a single incident or was part of a pattern of behavior.

However, in his communication to parents, Safier said he wanted to "express my gratitude to the high school staff and the Gloucester Police Department, who are responding to this matter promptly and professionally to ensure the protection of the health and safety of all our students."

"At this time the matter is still under investigation and I have shared all of the information that state and federal laws regarding student and employee privacy permit me to share." Safier wrote.

He declined in the interview to elaborate further.

Gloucester police Chief Edward Conley also declined comment, citing department policy against commenting on ongoing investigations, as did Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken.

School Committee Chairman Jonathan Pope did not immediately respond to an interview request.

Safier, in his communication, also urged parents to speak with their children about any concerns and about "the importance of immediately reporting any suspicious activity that would jeopardize the safety of our students or school community."

Gloucester Public Schools, according to the superintendent, has notified the state Department of Children and Families of a suspected incident of child abuse or neglect. He also wrote that parents of the student accuser have been notified.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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