Mashpee School Committee Chairman Jose L. Franco said yesterday that the committee needs more time to look into allegations that reports of sexual assault were handled badly at the Framingham Public School District when Steven A. Hiersche was superintendent there.
The committee chose Dr. Hiersche as the next superintendent of Mashpee Schools in March, shortly before the allegations were made public.
The controversy centers on how Framingham High School responded to two reports of sexual assault by a male athlete on two different female students in the spring of 2012. The male student was suspended for the last five days of the school year. Framingham police and the local district attorney declined to press charges in both cases.
In the first step toward an investigation into the incidents, an office of the federal government sent a list of questions about the matter to Framingham Schools this week.
Dr. Hiersche attended an executive session of the Mashpee School Committee Wednesday and answered questions from the committee. The committee’s questions and Dr. Hiersche’s answers have not been disclosed.
“We’re still conducting our inquiry on the issues that have come to light,” Mr. Franco said. “The school committee will meet next week. I am looking for advice from counsel.”
Mr. Franco’s position marks a departure from his statements last week, when he said the incident would have no bearing on the contract negotiations with Dr. Hiersche and the committee would have a contract ready for him to sign by Wednesday.
Last week, Mashpee School Committee member Scott P. McGee raised concerns over the issue after he read reports in the Framingham area media. The reports focused on a Framingham High School social worker, Kevin L. Fox, who resigned from his position in protest two weeks ago.
Speaking to the Enterprise last week, Mr. Fox said he resigned because of the inaction of the Framingham High School principal. The school system should have done its own investigation even after police had concluded theirs, Mr. Fox said.
Mr. Fox said he never brought the matter to Dr. Hiersche, the Framingham superintendent at the time.
The current Framingham superintendent, Stacy L. Scott, confirmed Wednesday that the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has started an investigation into allegations that the school violated a federal anti-discrimination law when responding to the alleged assaults. Title IX, as the federal law is known, states that no person shall be discriminated against due to his or her gender.
Dr. Scott told the Framingham School Committee that the letter from the federal government contained a list of questions about how the district investigates reports of sexual assault. A response, which will be shared with the community, is due in two weeks, Dr. Scott said.
Reached on the phone yesterday, school committee member Joan N. Oliver said she remained concerned about the assault mishandling allegations even after speaking with Dr. Hiersche.
“He was in charge,” she said. “Something just doesn’t sit right with me. I feel like he should have been more on top of this.”