KENNEBUNK — When a jury acquitted Jill Lamontagne in July of sex-related charges involving a 17-year-old student at Kennebunk High School, the former teacher said she felt elated and relieved.

“It was a super high,” she said.

Since then, Lamontagne has been working in a diner, spending time with her family, taking calls from the news media, and filling notebooks with the idea that she might write a book about her ordeal.

Lamontagne, 30, had spent a year in survival mode: First came the investigation, then the charges and indictment, and finally the four-day trial at York County Superior Court in Alfred. The jury found her not guilty on all 14 counts on July 26 after deliberating less than two hours.

Six weeks later, she says she feels like she’s starting over. She spends time with her husband, Steve, and their two young children, and thinks about what will be next in her working life. She’s been employed at a local diner since she resigned nearly a year ago from Kennebunk High School, where she’d been a health teacher for five years.

Lamontagne’s accuser was 17 when she began assisting him with his schoolwork so he could graduate. Now 19, he testified at the trial that he and Lamontagne had engaged in sexual acts at school and in her home. Lamontagne vehemently denied the charges.

At trial, she testified that the boy was having emotional difficulties as well as trouble with his schoolwork. On one of the days that he testified he was with Lamontagne, she was having lunch with a friend, and on the other she was picking up her children from day care, according to trial testimony.

When she learned in 2017 she had been charged with sex crimes involving the student, Lamontagne said she was in shock and took to the living room couch for a month. She couldn’t eat or sleep.

She said she knew that innocent people sometimes are convicted and imprisoned, and she prepared for that possibility, packing clothing of different sizes away for her children and making other arrangements. She began seeing a trauma counselor – and still does – to help her cope with the stress.

The acquittal hasn’t made everything better.

“I don’t get my job back, (attorney) fees back, the old version of me back,” she said. “I don’t get rid of the trauma. I’m innocent, that’s it.”

She lays some of the blame for her situation on school officials.

“I think the weak part of the puzzle was my administration and superintendent,” she said. “The superintendent and principal assisted the police in building a case against me.”

RSU 21 Superintendent Kathryn Hawes disagrees with that characterization.

“Although the district always assists law enforcement personnel when requested, it is not our role to ‘build a case’ against anyone,” Hawes said in an email. “We did not do that in this case, nor would we ever do it.”

Hawes issued a statement after the trial saying that Lamontagne had violated school policy both by exchanging text messages with a student and by failing to refer a student in crisis to a professional counselor.

Lamontagne said she was not specifically told by school officials not to exchange texts with students. She said that was a suggestion from the superintendent at the time but not a school board policy, as it is now.

Hawes said the policy was updated in June 2018 but that she had previously sent a letter to all staff outlining the expectations.

Despite everything that happened, Lamontagne said she wouldn’t do anything differently today.

“I gave 110 percent. I did what I thought was right for a kid in a rough spot,” she said. “I couldn’t have done more, but I couldn’t have done less and been OK with it.”

She was interviewed for a German television program, which she expects will air her story soon. She said she has learned a lot and has been taking notes.

“I’ve filled multiple notebooks over the past year,” she said. “A book is a goal.”

She hasn’t ruled out teaching again but is considering other careers. Before she became a teacher, Lamontagne studied nursing. She said she is also exploring options in the medical field, perhaps counseling, holistic health or something similar.

“I want the healed version of me to figure out what to do next, not the wounded,” she said.

Tammy Wells can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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