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Oxbow Announces Reforms After Teacher Sex Assault Charge

Bradford, Vt. — Oxbow Union High School this week announced a series of reforms designed to protect students after the recent arrest of a teacher charged with sexually assaulting a former student inside the school several years ago.

The new steps include training staffers to identify and protect vulnerable children.

In a letter mailed to parents this week, Principal Larry Walsh said the school district would launch an internal investigation, conducted by a Burlington lawyer, who will interview employees who worked at the school in the late 1990s, the period when longtime gym teacher Brian Musty’s allegedly assaulted a female student.

The lawyer, Tom Somers, conducted interviews this week and will eventually issue a report that will be available to the public, Walsh said in an interview yesterday.

Somers’ inquiry is separate from the ongoing criminal investigation into Musty, which is headed by the Orange County Special Investigations Unit.

“The internal investigation is really due diligence — did anyone know anything, is there an opportunity to come forward and have we followed up with getting information from the staff that was around during that time?” Walsh said. “It’s not, ‘What could/should we have done back then?’ When something of an unusual nature takes place, we want to know was there anything missing. Is there any information that staff working at that time have that could shed light.”

Additionally, the school district said it will have staffers attend training in December and January offered by two state agencies — the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Education — to emphasize requirements for reporting misconduct involving students, “boundary issues,” and understanding potential signs of sex abuse, Walsh said. And the school is hoping to host a conference on sex abuse and student safety, drawing on national experts, Walsh said.

The letter announcing the initiatives comes one month after school officials were criticized during a community forum for allowing allegedly inappropriate contact between Musty and students. Many parents complained that school officials may have missed signs of trouble.

School officials have repeatedly said there had been no formal complaints filed or reasons for concern about Musty, who is charged with assaulting a female player between 1997 and 1998, when she was under the age of 16. The victim, now 30, has long since moved away from the Upper Valley and came forward in October.

Musty, who is a physical education teacher and coach of Oxbow’s girls basketball, soccer and lacrosse teams, pleaded not guilty and was released on $20,000 bail. He and his attorney have declined to comment.

Orange County SIU director Tracy Simon did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Musty is on paid leave pending the criminal case, Walsh confirmed yesterday. Walsh was not with the school at the time of Musty’s alleged crimes.

Investigators alleged that the incidents occurred both at Musty’s home in Topsham, Vt., where the female student lived for a time, and inside the high school.

The other recommendation announced in Walsh’s letter to parents has already been publicly floated in recent weeks — hiring a school resource officer who would be part of the Bradford Police Department but spend a significant amount of time working inside the school.

Town and school officials said the proposal, which may be debated during Town Meeting, may not be affordable.

“We’re (sketching) it out, I’m not sure if it’s going to come to fruition,” Walsh said. “I’m for it, but we have to determine a budget for it. Both entities, the school and the city, see the need. It’s going to come down to can we do it financially?”

Oxbow School Board Chairwoman Vickie Carson did not respond to a message seeking comment yesterday.

While school officials have repeatedly said that, in the wake of Musty’s arrest, they would review procedures, some of the concerns voiced by parents at the meeting seemed to deal more with day-to-day workings inside the school.

For example, some parents said that Musty had been allowed to meet with female students, behind a closed door and drawn blinds, inside his office after girls has received hall passes from teachers or administrators.

The letter does not address any of those concerns. But Walsh said there was no need:

“If I saw that, I would have concerns,” he said. “We don’t have that going on.”

The Orange East Supervisory Union serves students from Bradford, Newbury, East Corinth, Thetford, and West Topsham, Vt.

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.

CORRECTION

This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The following correction ran in the Saturday, Dec. 15 edition of the Valley News:

Larry Walsh is the principal of Oxbow Union High School. The wrong first name was given for him at one point in a story in yesterday's Valley News.