Complaint against principal dismissed

Civil suit remains over alleged molestation by school staff member

CENTRAL POINT — The state's licensing agency has dismissed a complaint against the new Mae Richardson Elementary School principal regarding accusations she failed to protect children from alleged molestation while working in the Eagle Point School District.

Principal Lynn Scott, along with Eagle Point Superintendent Cynda Rickert, former Little Butte teacher and counselor Joel Heller and the Eagle Point School District, remain codefendants in a federal civil suit that alleges Heller molested two young girls in his classroom in fall 2011. The suit also alleges that school administrators knew Heller had a pattern of abusive behavior and failed to protect the students. No criminal charges have been filed against Heller.

Medford attorney Tom Petersen filed the civil suit in U.S. District Court in Medford in December 2012 on behalf of two unidentified girls who allege that Heller repeatedly restrained and molested them during class and recess time in 2011. Petersen also filed the complaint with the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission against Scott on behalf of his clients.

Scott was the principal of Hillside Elementary School, formerly known as Little Butte Elementary, in the Eagle Point School District at the time of the alleged incidents.

Scott has denied all allegations of wrongdoing. She said Monday that the dismissal by the commission was anticipated.

"I knew I had done nothing wrong," Scott said. "People need to know that it's over, and we need to keep going forward at Mae Richardson."

Central Point School District incoming Superintendent Samantha Steele has steadfastly defended Scott as a well-respected educator who was hired after undergoing a rigorous selection procedure.

"This is the outcome we had expected," Steele said. "And we continue to be excited to have Lynn leading Mae Richardson."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark D. Clarke in October ordered the release of Scott, Rickert and Heller's personnel files in the ongoing civil case. But he placed a gag order on the information.

Central Point parent Brant Harnois and grandparent Mark Vranes in April voiced concerns that the district was not transparent regarding Scott's hiring. The two men, along with about 60 other parents, teachers and staff members, attended a meeting April 18 to hear the district's explanation regarding Scott's hiring.

Harnois has three children attending Mae Richardson. Harnois said Steele and other officials were fairly successful in presenting Lynn Scott as a qualified principal.

But Harnois on Monday had no comment for the Mail Tribune. Vranes, who has six grandchildren in the Central Point district, said he questioned the "self-regulating" nature of the state's regulatory commission.

"They have a mentality of circling the wagons," Vranes said.

Both Scott and Steele said they understand and support parents' concerns about the welfare of their children, particularly when there are allegations of abuse.

"Child abuse is so tough. No one wants to dismiss or disregard allegations," Steele said.

Steele pointed out that Eagle Point police and the Jackson County District Attorney's Office declined to file criminal charges against Heller or anyone else related to the case.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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