Things look exactly as they should at the Twinfield school in Marshfield. Students play wiffleball in the field on a warm summer day, counting the hours until the bell rings. Inside something much more complicated has taken place.
"I was obviously really concerned and continue to be concerned about the safety of students in our community," said Superintendent Nancy Thomas.
Thomas said at a small school, you know all of your employees well. Which is why the staff was shocked to hear their co-worker, 54 year-old Russell Douse, had been cited with sexually propositioning a 14-year-old student off of school grounds. And to top it all off, WCAX confirmed he's been a foster parent in Vermont.
"Professionals -- school or healthcare or whatever just have to know the law, and when in doubt report -- that's the key," said Dave Yacovone with the Vt. Dept. for Children & Families.
Yacovone said state and federal law prohibit him from answering questions about Douse's history as a foster parent, so it's unclear how many children he has cared for in the past. He says the number of child abuse and neglect reports have grown steadily during the past three years, from roughly 12-thousand a year ago, to 15-thousand. Yacovone said that's one every 33 minutes. Douse's record was clean. He passed every background check the school and state had to offer.
Douse worked as a bus driver and custodian for four years at Twinfield school. His story isn't the first of sexual misconduct with a student that's taken place at the school.
"We do background checks. We do checks against the sex abuse registry. We do many activities to make sure our kids are going to be safe," Nancy Thomas said.
Despite rigorous efforts to prevent these incidents another Twinfield teacher ended up in court in 2010. John Buttura pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with an underage student.
"I think it's hard. The real law lays in the kindness of our hearts and if our hearts are empty, sometimes there's no way of knowing," Yacovone said.
Douse has been on administrative leave from the school since March and is no longer a foster parent. He will appear in court June 28th.
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