Maine to investigate abuse allegations at Elan School
POLAND, Maine -- Maine's Education Department will send a team of investigators to the controversial Elan School to review its programs and investigate allegations of abuse, a department official said.
The department decided it would be a good idea to investigate given the recent publicity the school received during the murder trial of Michael Skakel, spokesman Yellow Light Breen said Friday.
The department also intends to look into a complaint filed in March by Canadian officials who protested the treatment of two Canadian teens who were there.
Skakel, 41, was convicted in a Connecticut courtroom last week of killing neighbor Martha Moxley with a golf club in Greenwich, Conn., when they were both 15. Skakel, who is a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, attended Elan in the late 1970s and former classmates testified about humiliation, confrontation and physical force that students endured at the school.
"I think we mutually agreed it would be a good idea, given the media accounts and issues swirling around," Breen said. "We go in with completely open minds."
The Education Department is the sole licensing body for Elan, which has long been a subject of controversy over the disciplinary methods it uses with troubled teen-agers who attend.
Breen said the state last inspected the school in 1998.
The department will send a team of in-house education and special education experts to the school, along with a woman who investigates claims of abuse for the department, Breen said.
The department needs to determine that "the students are safe there," he said. "We don't want the situation to fester in terms of perceptions and counter-perceptions."
The most recent complaint about Elan came from Canadian officials who said that two teens who had stayed at Elan for several years were subject to extreme disciplinary measures, such as the use of restraints to keep them from running away.
Ed MacColl, a lawyer for Elan, said he hasn't seen the latest complaint.
He said the school "is looking forward" to a visit from the department.