Jun. 23—Regional School Unit 21 has agreed to pay $50,000 to a former student who accused a former Kennebunk High School teacher of sexual assault and later sued the district.
In June 2017, the student said he had sexual contact with Jill Lamontagne at the school and in her home when he was 17 years old. Lamontagne, who had taught health at the high school for five years, resigned in September 2017. The following month, she was indicted on 14 charges, including six felony counts of gross sexual assault. She went to trial in July 2018, and a York County jury found her not guilty on all charges.
The student, identified as "John Doe," sued Lamontagne, the district and two school officials in 2019. The complaint repeated the allegations against Lamontagne and accused the school officials of failing to protect the student. The multiple claims in the lawsuit included civil rights violations by all the defendants.
Attorney Dan Nuzzi, who represented RSU 21, said the school board voted on March 15 to authorize the resolution of the case. The parties filed a notice of settlement with the court soon after and formally dismissed the case this month. Nuzzi provided a copy of the agreement and a written statement from the district in response to a public records request from the Portland Press Herald. The agreement, which encompasses the district and the two officials, includes requirements about confidentiality and a denial of liability.
"Ultimately, the case was settled by the district's insurance carrier to avoid future substantial litigation expenses for which the carrier was responsible," the statement reads. "Specifically, $50,000 was paid by the insurance carrier without any contribution by the district."
The district did not insure or represent Lamontagne in the lawsuit. The settlement provided by the school indicates that the former teacher signed a separate agreement with the plaintiff, and her insurer also agreed to pay an undisclosed amount. Her attorney, Jim Bowie, wrote in an email that the case had been resolved "in a matter that was acceptable to all of the parties." He did not respond Wednesday to a question about the terms in that separate agreement or the amount paid to the plaintiff on Lamontagne's behalf.
The lawyers who represented the former student also responded to a phone call and emails about the case by saying the matter had been resolved.
Lamontagne also has pursued legal action. In 2018, she filed a complaint against RSU 21 to the Maine Human Rights Commission. That complaint said the district retaliated against Lamontagne for reporting her concerns about student harassment of teachers, such as the rumor that spread through school about a sexual relationship between her and the student. Among her allegations, she said the district pressured her to resign in response to the criminal charges.
In 2019, the commission sided with the district and dismissed her complaint. The investigator said it was "highly credible" that the district acted in response to inappropriate conduct between Lamontagne and the student.
Lamontagne then filed her own lawsuit against the district in York County Superior Court on similar grounds and also claiming she was defamed by RSU 21. In a written statement, the district denied wrongdoing but declined to comment further because the case is still open. An attorney who previously said he would represent Lamontagne in that matter did not respond to emails or a voicemail left at his office.
A Maine Department of Education spokeswoman said Lamontagne holds a conditional certification as a special education teacher for grades seven through 12. It was issued in May 2021.
In the statement provided by Nuzzi, the district said it has made "substantive revisions" to policies, including those regarding sexual harassment of students and child abuse reporting.
"Continuous efforts are made to improve its policies, practices and procedures to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all. ... The fact that the RSU 21, through its policy committee and its board, has revised policies as part of their ongoing efforts to improve the educational experience should not be taken as any indication that it believes its actions were in any way improper or inappropriate in either of the two litigations — the one brought by the former student, and the one brought by the former teacher," the statement reads.
Regional School Unit 21 includes Arundel, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport.