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BRENTWOOD, NH — A teacher from Amherst, indicted in Rockingham County, is the first to face sexual assault prices due to variations to New Hampshire legislation to be certain academics, psychologists, and other people with authority did not have sex with college students.
Bridgette Doucette-Howell of Amherst and Merrimack was indicted in March right after a 10-month investigation into accusations she experienced sex with and kissed an 18-calendar year-aged male pupil in both Exeter and Kingston involving April 26 and Might 13, 2021, whilst she was an staff, contractor, or volunteer with a key or secondary instructional institution exactly where the human being was a scholar.
The regulation was amended in 2020 in the wake of the Primo “Howie” Leung trainer-student rape and sexual assault case immediately after learners reported looking at him kissing an grownup pupil on East Facet Drive in Harmony in December 2018. Although it was frowned on and would generally charge teachers their employment, it was not in opposition to the regulation for educators to have interactions with students 18 or older. Immediately after numerous months of wrangling and a thrust by each Republicans and domestic and sexual violence advocates, the statute was amended with the addition of the sentence: “When the actor is an personnel, contractor, or volunteer at a most important or secondary instructional establishment and the victim is a university student and up to 10 months immediately after the student’s graduation or departure.”
Leung was never charged in New Hampshire he faces various felony counts in Massachusetts based mostly on accusations of rape at a camp in Newton, MA — a case that hardly ever would have come to fruition experienced the learners not accused him of kissing the college student in Concord.
Amanda Grady Sexton, the director of community affairs for the NH Coalition Towards Domestic & Sexual Violence, stated the Legislature noticed the have to have to approve the variations because “it’s under no circumstances ideal for a teacher to interact in sexual contact with a college student.” She reported these types of associations were being inherently abusive due to the fact instructors keep ability above students.
“Our K-12 educators are in a situation of have confidence in and authority about college students — they are not peers no matter of the age of the student,” she reported. “The power teachers maintain creates a predicament the place pupils are not able to actually consent to any style of passionate or sexual romance.”
The modify, along with the up to date educator Code of Ethics and Code of Carry out, approved in 2018, was envisioned to relieve educator-college student sexual abuse and misconduct challenges in the point out.
Restricted Facts About The Case
Patricia Conway, the Rockingham County Lawyer, reported she could not remark on the information of the scenario, like the timeline of the investigatory process or how the allegations came to be. Nevertheless, she did say investigations of this character “can get months” for numerous reasons.
“For occasion, most conditions involve gathering details and data from witnesses as properly as applying for look for warrants for merchandise these kinds of as cell phones and other digital units,” she claimed. “Gathering details can consider months depending on the cooperation of witnesses, the quantity of witnesses that have to have to be interviewed, and the time it may just take investigators to go via the benefits of a forensic examination. As you can imagine, digital gadgets can keep a voluminous quantity of data and a complete investigation demands investigators to go through this facts with a fine-tooth comb, so to discuss. Completing all of these jobs can choose various months.”
These kinds of investigations can be “as detailed and thorough as probable in get to maintain perpetrators accountable and obtain justice for victims and our neighborhood,” she explained.
“As you know, the state’s load is evidence further than a reasonable doubt,” Conway reported.
Doucette-Howell was the theatre director at Sanborn Regional Significant University in Kingston at minimum two decades back. Not extensive right before the alleged sexual exercise, the school’s troupe was showcased on WMUR-Television for putting together a write-up-pandemic general performance.
Neither Thomas Ambrose, the superintendent of the SAU 17 school district, nor Brian Stack, the principal at the university, responded to a question about the duration of time she labored at the school.
Finalist For Trainer Of The 12 months
In accordance to posts on Patch, her LinkedIn account, and other details, Doucette-Howell grew up in Newton and was drawn to instructing particular requires learners because of to her own expertise in the eighth quality currently being informed she was “too stupid” to graduate from significant university.
“That only aided me by solidifying my perseverance to defeat my very own incapacity — I have a difficult time putting combinations of letters collectively — and fully grasp that it is feasible,” she stated in 2015. “And if persons convey to you it is not, it is because they just cannot see it.”
This working experience led her to turn into a teacher though dabbling in theatre, her initial really like. Instruction even though led to accolades and her turning into a finalist for 2016 Trainer of the 12 months by the New Hampshire Division of Education and learning after a few limited yrs of getting an educator. For 9 decades, doucette-Howell taught heritage to particular needs students at Regional Products and services and Schooling Middle, 5 personal educational institutions in Amherst and Deerfield.
“Bridgette has an incredible total of creativeness, professionalism, and skill to arrange,” Judy Koch, RSEC’s govt director at the time of her nomination, said. “Not only does that profit her students, but she also aids moms and dads who never comprehend their kid’s potential by resetting their anticipations and refusing to enable them decreased their criteria due to the fact of their child’s learning disability or unique need.”
Two decades soon after not profitable the teacher of the year, she was described as a “standout educator” at the college.
“Doucette Howell is a winner for instructors and college students, and is instrumental in serving to RSEC construct much better associations during the neighborhood and skilled enhancement courses for other universities,” the school reported in a statement to Patch.
She was also highlighted in a Ted Converse in Oct 2018.
Doucette-Howell retains a Bachelor’s in musical theatre and a Master’s of Artwork in training-secondary schooling and instructing, each from UNH. She worked for the Springboard Immediately after School system in Massachusetts and the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth.
Just before remaining indicted, Doucette-Howell held an expert educator license and endorsements in theatre and social research.
The training section moved to suspend her credentials on March 8 after learning of her indictment on the sexual assault fees. The suspension turned powerful on March 25.
“The department’s prime priority is usually guaranteeing the safety of young children, and this agency takes all allegations of educator misconduct critically,” the office stated in an e mail. “(The department) will continue on to operate diligently with its associates to tackle any and all such allegations swiftly and with fairness to all concerned.”
In late 2021, she still left RSEC and began operating as a occupation and academic advisor at Rivier University in Nashua, wherever she was actively employed at minimum till before this month, in accordance to LinkedIn. Karen Cooper, the vice president for College Improvement, stated in an electronic mail, “this specific is not utilized at Rivier.”
Inspite of the commendations, Grady Sexton mentioned the accusations against Doucette-Howell ended up critical. Way too typically, educators accused of rape who are women of all ages have a tendency to be dealt with otherwise than academics who are gentlemen.
“Children and teenagers who are abused by woman teachers report the identical very long-term effects of abuse, which include lousy mental and bodily well being, increased prices of material use diseases, and trouble keeping healthful associations,” she reported. “Sadly, victims of female educators may well be more unwilling to find support for the reason that of societal double expectations. These victims believe that the abuse will not be adequately recognized or taken significantly.”
Conway explained the statute’s function was to defend youngsters at discovering establishments from staff members of educational institutions who could use their placement of authority to manipulate small children or teens into engaging in sexual acts.
“We intend to prosecute this circumstance to the fullest extent of the law just as we would any other aggravated felonious sexual assault scenario,” she explained. “Students can be specifically susceptible to lecturers and other workers of the college because of to the level of trust that is inherent in a teacher/university student relationship. It is wrong for a teacher of other personnel of a school to use this trust to manipulate and damage learners.”
On her Fb page and Twitter account, Doucette-Howell espoused a quantity of left-of-middle political viewpoints, including displaying aid for defunding police. She was vital of steps taken by Gov. Chris Sununu and Frank Edelblut, the commissioner of the New Hampshire Section of Schooling, in producing choice alternatives for students, together with understanding pods. Doucette-Howell was also critical of a invoice changing the definition of an satisfactory education and learning in New Hampshire and of criticism toward teachers’ unions who were attempting to maintain lockdowns because of to the coronavirus pandemic when mom and dad have been demanding their young children be place back into school rooms, particularly as the pandemic waned.
Doucette-Howell did not return an e mail seeking comment. She was owing to be arraigned on Friday and is back in Rockingham County Superior Courtroom for a dispositional conference on Might 24.