WATERVILLE — School Superintendent Eric Haley recommends that Waterville Senior High School Principal Don Reiter be fired because Reiter asked a female student on Aug. 27 to have sex with him, the school department’s attorney told the Waterville Board of Education on Tuesday.

Attorney Melissa Hewey told the board at a public dismissal hearing at George J. Mitchell School that the evidence will show Reiter called the girl into his office, closed the door, sat down next to her and said, “Can you keep a secret?” Hewey said, “‘Yes,’ she replied.”

Then, according to Hewey, Reiter said, “Every year I choose one student to have sex with, and this year I’ve picked you.”

The student was shocked, frozen and wondered if it was a joke, Hewey said, and she was shaking and nervous.

According to Hewey, the evidence will show that Reiter told her no one had ever turned him down before. He also told her, when she tried to leave his office, that she would not graduate from the school.

Hewey said the student told officials that Reiter said, “If you tell anyone what happened here, I will make sure you never graduate from Waterville High School and never get your GED,” a reference to a General Educational Development diploma.

However, Reiter’s attorney, Gregg Frame, said the evidence will show the allegations are false and that the situation never happened. Calling it a for-cause standard, Frame said there is no corroboration and nothing in Reiter’s history that indicates he would do what the girl alleges. He has an unblemished record and was railroaded in this case, Frame said.

Frame told the board that the student was not on track to graduate and Reiter was trying to help her.

When Reiter called the student to his office that day, he closed the door to have a conversation, as he had done countless times before.

“I was a teacher for five years,” said Frame, a Waterville Senior High School graduate. “What Don went through is everyone who works with kids’ worst nightmare. There’s no template for him to react.”

Frame was referring to what Hewey said was Reiter’s version of what happened — that the student placed her hand on Reiter’s thigh in his office and said, “I find you very attractive.”

Frame said Reiter is an outstanding principal and the school has thrived under his leadership. He said witnesses will say in the hearing that the accuser is a Jekyll-and-Hyde type of person and can easily cry.

“It’s important to note that Don immediately stopped the conversation and reported it immediately to a supervisor,” Frame said. “That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Frame said the board would hear Hewey say it’s unusual for a principal to deal with an issue involving a student — that it’s the guidance counselor who does that. But Reiter, he said, addresses issues with students on a daily basis and always is willing to meet with students and parents. He said witnesses for Reiter will be those who work with him, but the accuser’s witnesses are students, her boyfriend and police officers.

“Listen to them, and listen to the people who work with Don Reiter every single day,” Frame urged the board. The board went into executive session, leaving the 200 or so members of the audience in limbo.

Bryan Dench, attorney for the board, had explained that the law requires certain information involving students to be confidential.

The board recessed for the night about 10 p.m. The hearing is expected to continue at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Audience members Tuesday included teachers, secretaries and other staff members at the high school, as well as police Detective Sgt. Bill Bonney, Detective David Caron, who led a separate investigation into the case, and School Resource Officer Damon Lefferts.

Former Waterville Board of Education Chairman Lee Cabana and his wife, Judy, also were on hand.

Before the hearing started, Lee Cabana, 79, said he had never experienced anything quite like it in his 17 years on the board, including more than 16 as chairman.

“It bothers me that the superintendent has been laboring over this and it hurts him deeply. He and (Assistant Superintendent) Peter Thiboutot, I’m sure, have done the very best to bring us information that will help make it clearer, no matter what happens. This kind of thing is very sad. It’s sad that we’ve come to this.”

Cabana, a retired 36-year teacher at the high school who resigned from the school board in December, said he can understand Reiter’s need to present himself in a public forum.

“One wishes him good fortune, no matter how it turns out. I’m glad I’m not on the board. It’s a very difficult decision.”

Judy Cabana, 76, said she believes Reiter has been railroaded by the accusations.

“I have a lot of trust in Don, and I truly believe he didn’t do anything wrong,” she said.

Councilor Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, sat in the front row. Before the hearing started, White said he worked with Reiter when he, White, worked as a substitute teacher at the high school while working his way through Thomas College, from which he eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in education. As part of his education, White also did an internship at the high school with Jobs for Maine Graduates.

“I’ve always had a very pleasant working relationship with him, and I wish him the best of luck,” White said.

After the board heard opening statements and went into executive session, White said what Reiter is alleged to have said to the female student in his office does not sound at all like anything Reiter would say.

“Every educator’s nightmare is to have a student alone and be accused of something because they’re upset, and it sounds like this is one of those situations,” White said. “The lesson learned from this is, never be alone with a student.”

Sitting in the second row Tuesday were friends and 2013 Waterville High graduates Billy Morton and Thomas Turmelle, both 21, of Waterville,

They said they came to the hearing because they had heard about the case and wanted to see what it was all about.

“I’ve heard about as much as anyone else, which is just about nothing,” Turmelle said.

After the opening statements, both said they were perplexed by the case.

“It’s nuts,” Turmelle said. “I didn’t see that coming.”

Morton said it was confusing.

“It’s a ‘he said, she said’ thing, but you wonder. They said he (Reiter) said he’s been doing this for years, so you wonder, why hasn’t anyone come out before and complained?”

Morton was referring to the allegation that Reiter said he picks a person to have sex with every year.

“At the same time, who knows?” Morton continued. “I’m not going to pick a side now, because I obviously don’t know, but it’s very surprising and confusing. Not something I’d think Don would ever do. I never met him personally.”

Hewey had spelled out a timeline for the case after saying Haley recommended termination of Reiter’s contract for “engaging in inappropriate conduct with a female student at the high school.”

The facts that gave rise to the case being presented included that the female student and her mother went to visit Reiter to discuss an issue related to credits. He appropriately referred them to a guidance counselor to work on the issue, and they did.

Then on Aug. 26, the student showed up at Reiter’s office and he told her she needed to go to the guidance counselor before he could meet her, and she then left.

The next day, Aug. 27, the first day of school, was also the day of opening ceremonies for the alternative school, and for years Reiter has attended those ceremonies, according to Hewey. This year was to be no exception. In fact, a couple of days before that, Reiter spoke with Brian Laramee, the assistant principal, who later would be interim principal, and said he was going.

Then on Aug. 27, Reiter abruptly changed his mind and sent Laramee to the alternative school opening ceremonies, Hewey said.

Reiter, Hewey said, then called the female student out of class and into his office, and when she arrived, he got out from behind his desk and closed the door, sat down next to her, looked at her and then asked if she could keep a secret.

After the sex request was made and the student became shaky and nervous, she hoped the door was not locked, according to Hewey.

After the incident, Reiter did what is called “paving,” which Hewey described as getting out in front of it with his own story. He called the superintendent, called his wife and later the affirmative action officer, Hewey said.

She said the board, during the hearing, will hear from witnesses who support Reiter about what kind of person he is — that he is even-keeled, deliberate.

“He’s the kind of person that sets a schedule and sticks to it, religiously,” Hewey said.

She said the board also would hear that Reiter has been a good principal and is experienced and works with all kinds of students, including those at risk.

Hewey asked board members to ask themselves if it was more likely that Reiter, an experienced administrator, would have acted as he acted if what he said is true, or whether it was more likely Reiter would have acted the way he did act if what the student said was true.

“They (Haley and Thiboutot) have concluded, based upon what they know about Mr. Reiter, that being the person he is, his story just doesn’t make sense, and what the student says is what happened in that room that way.”

Haley and Thiboutot conducted an in-house investigation of the case, interviewing about 20 people. Police conducted a separate investigation and sent their report to the district attorney’s office. District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said she will wait until after the school board hearing to decide what to do about the case.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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