ANSON — Tensions are running high at Carrabec High School following the suspension of a math teacher who has threatened the superintendent with a lawsuit while the administrator seeks to enforce boundaries that will keep the teacher away from the school and students and their families.

Anthony Pranses Courtesy photo

“At this point in time, we’re simply under investigation,” Regional School Unit 74 Superintendent Mike Tracy said Tuesday. “There are a number of rumors and misinformation about this investigation that are circulating, and unfortunately I cannot speak about that or comment in order to protect the employee, and so I can’t defend one position or another.”

Math teacher Anthony Pranses, 52, of Moscow, was placed on paid administrative leave Thursday by Tracy following the start of an internal investigation prompted by a complaint made against Pranses by a member of the school community.

On Friday morning at 8:17 a.m., students gathered in the Carrabec High School cafeteria and walked out to protest Pranses’ suspension. Pranses appeared at the walkout and is seen in videos broadcast by News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ) confronting the principal, Timothy Richards.

“(Richards) came out and confronted the kids at the walkout as it’s his job,” Pranses said in an interview Tuesday. “The kids stood there yelling profanities, and I said that I was not going to stand there and let people tell the news media that I’m a pedophile.”

On Monday, Pranses received a letter from Tracy stating he had violated the conditions of his leave, which Tracy pointed out in the letter included having “no contact with students, staff or families in RSU #74 pending an investigation into your boundary issues.”

Tracy reiterated the conditions of his leave to Pranses and indicated he would be terminated if he violated them again. He also directed Pranses not to come on school property during the suspension.

The letter, which Pranses posted on his Facebook page, was delivered along with a no-trespass order.

Read the letter

Pranses said that on Monday his administrative leave had been changed to a suspension without pay pending termination. He said the investigation turned into an administrative suspension because it was believed that he was coaching students. He said he was told that he could come and go on school property when he was first suspended on Thursday.

Tracy said on Tuesday, “At this point in time, the employee is on paid administrative leave and this is customary when we have an employee under review. This is in place for their protection.

“It’s customary with administrative leave that (Pranses) would not be interacting with students, staff or families regarding the matter.”

PRANSES’ PERSPECTIVE

In the letter Pranses received from Tracy on Monday, the superintendent also objected to an email that Pranses had sent out to parents and students on Sunday.

In the email, Pranses said that the superintendent “asked me if I had ever texted or otherwise contacted students through social media. I relayed to him the few times I had, generally in relation to an afterschool event and with full knowledge of the parents. He then asked me if I had ever told a student to delete a text message, to which I said no. He told me that he needed a couple of days to investigate the matter.”

“The following morning, Mr. Tracy began interviewing students. Each was asked if I had any inappropriate sexual contact with them and/or otherwise made them feel uncomfortable. Naturally, no sooner than the first student was interviewed, word was spread throughout the school and community at large, that I was being investigated as a pedophile.”

“A few were also asked if I had ever called them retarded … Your superintendent has told them that I am a sexual predator who thinks they are retarded.”

STUDENT DESCRIBES QUESTIONING

Sophomore Aislinn Slate said that she was one of the students interviewed by Principal Timothy Richards and Tracy. Slate, of North Anson, said that she has had a close relationship with Pranses since she was in middle school and said that he offered her emotional support and tutoring and always makes accommodations for his students.

Mike Tracy, superintendent in Regional School Unit 74, said Monday no students were suspended for walking out of Carrabec High School in North Anson on Friday in support of Anthony Pranses, a teacher who has been placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into a complaint about him. Morning Sentinel file photo

“I was pulled aside the first and third day of interviewing and was asked the exact same questions over and over again as if my answers were going to change,” Slate said. “I was asked if (Pranses) had texted me, talked to me sexually and if he had asked to do sexual things to me. My answer was always no and it felt like they weren’t listening to me and that their minds were set.”

Slate also thinks that the situation was handled poorly by the administration.

“I am disappointed. Not only was my mother not informed, I have two other sisters in my school and they’re my whole family. My whole family was being interviewed and nobody was being called. I’m disappointed that they were not keeping it under control and the questions that they asked were about things that didn’t seem even remotely true.”

Tracy could not confirm this. He did say that he is working with the administration as well as social workers to conduct the investigation.

PARENTS EXPRESS CONCERN

Parents, however, are concerned because they were not notified that their students would be questioned.

Cristi Dickey has two daughters in the school: Laci, a freshman, and Alexis, a junior. Laci was at the walkout on Friday, but Alexis was on a field trip.

“(Alexis) came home about two weeks ago and she was very upset that Mr. Pranses was getting investigated,” Dickey said during a phone call on Tuesday. “I heard that everybody was getting pulled into Richards office and asked questions.”

However, neither of Dickey’s children were questioned by the school administration. Dickey was at the walkout on Friday to support her daughters and Pranses.

“I am very mad at the superintendent and principal,” Dickey said. “Some students tried to talk to the principal yesterday, and all he said was that he couldn’t talk to them about anything. They got nothing and they all came home upset because they wanted something.”

Leah May is a parent to sophomore Olivia Ackerson. Ackerson created a group message on Snapchat to get her classmates talking about Pranses’ suspension last week and organized the walkout.

“My daughter came home from school and told me that a lot of her friends were being called into the office and asked if they had ever had sex with Mr. Pranses,” May said during a phone call Tuesday. “None of their parents knew until the students went home and told their parents.”

May said that she has called the Department of Education and left several messages to complain about the way that the situation was handled.

“I think Pranses is a great teacher and I don’t believe that the allegations are true. I understand that they’re teenagers and they talk about sex amongst each other, but I don’t feel as though the principal is qualified to ask questions like these to students. If parents need to sign consent forms for children to have sex ed, then that just proves the point that parents should have been contacted before any students were questioned,” May said.

INVESTIGATION CONTINUES

As the investigation continues, Tracy hopes that people take into account the person or persons who made the complaint.

“Some people may be fearful of talking. My sense from the administration team is that people are hungry for a sense of normalcy,” Tracy said. “No charges have been filed, nothing criminal has been found. We are working through the process to reinstate him back into high school teaching. How he responds is out of my control.”

Pranses said that he is looking to file a lawsuit to remove Tracy from office. He said that if he is offered his position back, he will return to the classroom and continue his legal battle against Tracy.

“My kids need me, the parents need me and I will continue to sue until Tracy is removed. I need an apology letter in my record and parents need letters apologizing and vouching for my character. The damage that has been done has completely stripped my character,” Pranses said.

Slate said that students are working to organize another walkout.

Pranses began teaching at Carrabec High School three years ago. About 200 students attend Carrabec High School.

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