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I-Team: Grafton School Psychologist Hid Troubling History

By Kathy Curran, WBZ-TV
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Grafton High School psychologist Michael Sefton, with the I-Team's Kathy Curran.

Grafton High School psychologist Michael Sefton, with the I-Team’s Kathy Curran.

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GRAFTON (CBS) – Michael Sefton is a high school psychologist in a position of trust, but the I-Team found he has a secret from his past, which he hid from the school that hired him.

And as the school year winds down at Grafton High School, an investigation into Sefton is ramping up. Sefton has been the school’s psychologist for the past two years, but the I-Team has discovered he may have gotten his job under false pretenses.

WBZ-TV’s Kathy Curran reports

It’s a case of broken trust and abuse of power. The I-Team found that in 1998 and 1999, Sefton had sexual relations with one of his patients — a 24-year-old woman. According to a civil suit filed in 2002, that female patient idealized Sefton at a time when she was vulnerable and in a weakened mental condition.

As a result, the state Board of Registration of Psychologists stripped Sefton of his license to practice psychology back in 2008.

“This is probably one of the most, if not the most serious violations,” said Barbara Anthony, undersecretary of the state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, which oversees the board of psychologists.

“It’s taking advantage and exploiting a person who’s in a very vulnerable circumstance,” Anthony said. “He should not be practicing psychology in the state of Massachusetts.”

But that didn’t stop Sefton from getting hired two years ago as the school psychologist at Grafton High School. All he needed to qualify for the job was a certificate from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which he was able to get without disclosing to anyone that he had lost his license to practice psychology.

Sefton did not return the I-Team’s phone calls and he could not be found at Grafton High School during numerous visits by the I-Team over the last few weeks. We finally tracked him down at his home in Shrewsbury.

We asked him about the revocation of his psychologist’s license for having sex with a patient and his failure to disclose that fact to the Grafton School Department.

“I can’t comment on that right now, it wouldn’t be proper,” Sefton responded.
Grafton School Superintendent Joseph Connors told the I-Team he did not know about Sefton’s past until after the I-Team started asking questions several weeks ago.

“The only comment that I would make is that the situation, we’re aware of it, we’ve been recently made aware of it, and it’s under review,” Connors said, refusing to discuss whether Sefton is still reporting for work at the high school.

In a written statement, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said it did not find out Sefton’s professional license had been revoked by the board of psychologists until the fall of 2010 — one year after it gave him a certificate to work as a school psychologist.

DESE said it’s investigating and would make no further comment on Sefton’s status.

The Grafton superintendent said Sefton has been a good employee since he’s been working at the high school.
Sefton also teaches psychology courses at UMass Boston and Assumption College and works part-time as a police officer in New Braintree.

If you have a tip for the I-Team, email Joe and Kathy.

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