SOUTH BERWICK — A former Berwick Academy science teacher is facing charges that he surreptitiously took videos underneath the skirts of unsuspecting female students for more than a year.
Brian A. Sanborn, 54, of Sanford turned himself in to South Berwick police and was charged with one count of violation of privacy, a Class D misdemeanor. Sanborn likely will face additional charges as police try to identify some of the victims in the 70 video clips analyzed so far, said Police Chief Dana Lajoie. Another 40 to 50 clips have yet to be analyzed.
“We don’t have any evidence these were posted to any outside sources,” Lajoie said. Sanborn apparently kept them for his personal use, the chief said, and is not believed to have distributed the videos.
South Berwick police were notified earlier this month that Sanborn, a longtime chemistry teacher and girls basketball coach, had been fired after admitting to inappropriate conduct involving students during the past 12 to 18 months.
Sanborn turned himself in at the police station but has retained a lawyer and did not consent to an interview with police, Lajoie said.
Sanborn apparently used a small digital video camera that could fit in the palm of his hand, Lajoie said. He would take videos while standing alongside female students, holding the camera in one hand and directing it underneath the teenagers’ skirts, the chief said. Sometimes, Sanborn would videotape girls’ cleavage while they concentrated on their chemistry experiments, he said.
Most of the videos were taken in his classroom, often when students were at their desks, though some were taken elsewhere on campus, Lajoie said.
Sanborn then downloaded the video clips to his work computer, Lajoie said.
One of the challenges for investigators was the difficulty in identifying the victims in most of the clips. But Lajoie said that Sanborn left the camera on when he was afraid someone might see him, then positioned it after they were gone, allowing them to identify some victims.
“We used one where we knew we could identify the person to bring the initial charge,” Lajoie said.
Police have interviewed six potential victims so far and the school is working to identify others, Lajoie said.
The school became aware of the conduct three weeks ago when two male students saw Sanborn filming other students and told administrators, who notified police, Lajoie said. The school fired Lajoie after they confronted him and he admitted the conduct, Lajoie has said.
Lajoie said he was baffled how Sanborn could get away with the filming for months without being caught.
Lajoie said the victims and the school view the behavior as a violation of trust.
“It’s unfortunate for the community. It’s unfortunate for Berwick Academy,” Lajoie said.
A telephone message left at Sanborn’s home was not returned Tuesday night. The headmaster at Berwick Academy declined a request for an interview.
School officials sent a statement to parents on May 2 after firing Sanborn.
“School officials were made aware of allegations of misconduct involving a teacher taking inappropriate photographs of students on campus without their knowledge,” the statement said. “Upon confirming the validity of these allegations, we took swift internal actions to end this teacher’s employment, and we immediately reported this situation to local law enforcement. As this is now an ongoing police investigation, we must refrain from speaking further on the issue at this time.”
Lajoie said Sanborn’s conduct did not warrant more serious charges, since there was no sexual contact or exploitation.
In Massachusetts earlier this year, that state’s supreme court overturned a man’s conviction for taking “upskirt” photos of women in public, finding that women in skirts were not considered to be “partially nude,” a necessary characteristic under Massachusetts law. The Massachusetts Legislature passed a law the next day closing the loophole, making it a misdemeanor to violate the expectation of privacy by secretly recording a person’s private parts.
Maine’s law is written differently. It says that a violation of privacy occurs if a person records images of a portion of another person’s body that is concealed from public view and which a reasonable person would expect to be safe from surveillance.
Lajoie said he assigned three officers to work on the case against Sanborn for the first two weeks. They executed a search warrant at Sanborn’s house April 30. Saco police volunteered to analyze Sanborn’s computer and Ogunquit police his cellphone because the Maine State Police computer crimes unit has a backlog of cases. There are still two other computers to analyze, although one belongs to Sanborn’s wife, Lajoie said.
Sanborn was able to post $2,000 bail and was released. He is prohibited from having contact with anyone under 18, cannot possess electronic devices capable of taking photos or video, is banned from Berwick Academy property, and must check in weekly with South Berwick police.
Sanborn is scheduled to appear in York District Court on Aug. 6.
Anyone with information about the case is urged to call South Berwick police at 384-2254.
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: