COHASSET (CBS) – Cohasset Middle/High School Principal Carolyn Connolly has been placed on paid administrative leave after teacher Jeffrey Knight was arraigned on charges of assaulting a female student in a classroom at the school.
The school district has also launched an independent investigation “into the facts and circumstances” surrounding the allegations, Cohasset Superintendent of Schools Louise L. Demas said in a statement. The school district has hired an independent investigator “to conduct an administrative, independent review to determine what, if any, rules violations or performance failures by Cohasset Public Schools staff occurred.”
The student reported Knight’s alleged conduct to school officials in February, yet schools officials did not report it to law enforcement until May, prosecutors said during Knight’s arraignment in Quincy District Court on Sept. 20. A reason for the delay in reporting to police was not discussed during the arraignment.
Knight, 57, of Pembroke, is charged with two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older. He was released on personal recognizance and is due back in court on Nov. 28. Knight’s defense attorney refuted the allegations in court, saying there is no evidence to support the claims.
All charges relate to the same victim, according to police, who launched an investigation after the student came forward. Knight is accused of indecently touching a female minor student during class on dates in 2017 and 2018, police said.
Demas planned to meet with concerned parents Thursday evening to respond to questions. No cameras or broadcast equipment are allowed on school grounds. Demas said her office has cooperated fully with the police investigation and the Norfolk District’s Attorney’s Office.
“I have concerns, and I share in the concerns of our community members. I want to hear from parents in our community,” Demas said. “I think everyone understands that there are certain things I cannot speak about due to the ongoing criminal investigation, but I want to make clear that I intend to take the findings of the independent investigation seriously, and I am prepared to make the necessary decisions to ensure all procedures all strictly followed for the benefit and safety of all our Cohasset students.”
Before the start of the school year, the district conducted periodic training of all employees, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teachers and administrators, on mandatory reporting procedures, Demas said.
On Oct. 12, all faculty and administrators will have a full day of professional development with the help of the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office, the state Department of Children and Families and Massachusetts Advocates for Children.
Knight, who has been employed by the Cohasset school district as a middle school teacher since August 2011, has been on administrative leave since the start of the investigation.