I have known Don Reiter, embattled principal at Waterville High School, for six years because I was a parent volunteer in three different programs, one of which meant I met at least once a month with Don.

I was always impressed with Don’s ability to quickly grasp complex issues and arrive at fair and equitable decisions.

Don is one of the most ethical and moral people I have met in my long life. He made many decisions based on his strong conviction of right and wrong, with a maturity beyond his years. His strong moral fiber makes him an excellent administrator for the high school.

When I first read that accusations had been made against him, there was no doubt in my mind that he was innocent, nor have I wavered in my belief of his innocence since then. Everything I have known about him tells me the incident happened exactly as he has reported.

I am surprised that anyone knowing Don would believe him capable of saying what he has been accused of saying. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, though, because it appears to be human nature to want to believe the worst of others. Pointing fingers at others makes folks believe that they, themselves, must be better people. It’s one of the reasons, sad to say, that gossip is a major pastime.

I am disgusted, however, that people who know Don would give this accusation any credence. Did those doing the investigating believe the accuser’s story had to be true because she can cry as needed to be convincing?

I have heard that the student wanted to graduate in June, and she wanted Don to change her grades to make this possible. Don couldn’t have done this, even if he wanted to (which he wouldn’t), but she wouldn’t have known that. He did try to redirect her to the guidance counselor on three occasions, but this would not have given her the answer she wanted.

I find it much more likely that this student naively thought perhaps she could influence him by initiating sexual contact (her hand on his thigh) and not understanding the repercussion of her actions. Nor did she realize she was going to be called to the assistant principal’s office the next day, and felt she had to lie in order to save face, as many teenagers do. It’s also highly likely she did not understand the repercussions of her lie.

The “choosing a student each year” story sounds ludicrous to those of us who know Don, in fact, to any adult. It sounds like how an immature, naïve student might think the world works.

This possibility seems much more likely than the ridiculous accusation.

My last point: The Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal printed Tuesday night’s proceedings on Wednesday morning. Near the end of the story was this quote attributed to Melissa Hewey, attorney for School Superintendent Eric Haley, who has recommended that Don be fired:

“They (Haley and Assistant Superintendent Peter 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.”

I have reread this several times in an effort to understand it. Do Haley and Thiboutot, knowing Don, believe that he is capable of saying what the student accused him of?

If so, are we to believe that they saw a character flaw in Don that could lead to him being inappropriate with a female student but did nothing about it for all of Don’s eight-year tenure? If, indeed, that is the case — that they saw a weak moral character and did nothing about it — that would be unconscionable.

If it was a matter of not wanting to appear to be part of a cover-up to protect the school, I could understand. But this statement is a deliberate accusation of guilt based on “knowing him.” Or, did Hewey quote them incorrectly? Or, did the newspaper misquote Hewey?

I am disgusted, and angry, and appalled that everything Don has worked for — a home, a family, a job he loved and was very good at — can be stripped away by the accusation of one student who found a situation blowing up out of her control and lied to protect herself from the consequences of her actions.

I think it is disgusting that this situation has been handled in such a way that maximum damage has been done to an innocent man. And how sad it is that good men in helping positions are at such awful risk.

Shirley Shepherd, of Waterville, has two children, both of whom graduated from Waterville High School.

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