DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Foxcroft Academy planned to hold classes remotely Wednesday after threatening comments were made against the school, officials said Tuesday.
"Out of an abundance of caution for the safety of students, faculty and staff, there will be no in-person classes, athletic contests, or extracurricular activities taking place on Wednesday at Foxcroft Academy, or involving Foxcroft Academy students," school officials said in a statement released Tuesday evening.
The announcement comes a day before an expected walkout and peaceful protest in response to two teenage students being accused of sexually assaulting one of their classmates back in February.
According to court documents, the charges stem from an event in Charleston on Feb. 20 when eight people were reportedly sharing a bottle of alcohol at a home during school vacation week. The alleged victim and another minor began to wrestle, and the victim claims he was placed in a headlock face-down on a couch while another juvenile pulled his pants down and assaulted him with a bottle.
"We immediately contacted the police, which is protocol when something doesn't happen on school grounds or related to school," Foxcroft Academy Head of School Arnold Shorey told NEWS CENTER Maine. "Just last Friday, [the two students] ended up in court, and so the event was made public."
The students, a 16-year-old and 17-year-old, were charged with three counts of gross sexual assault, including classes A, B, and C. The 16-year-old was also charged with criminal threatening, a Class D crime, and tampering with the victim, a Class B crime. They denied the charges during an appearance in Newport District Court on Friday, May 13.
"They haven't been on campus since the court date, and I can't go any further than that," Shorey said.
The accused had been in classes since the alleged attack. A judge has ordered them not to communicate with anyone involved in the alleged incident.
"Foxcroft Academy did not have any input in that decision," Shorey added. "We worked with the alleged victim's family from day one, and so we followed all the proper protocols."
Shorey said the academy is reviewing the judge's order with its legal counsel to ensure the campus remains a safe environment for students.
Several Dover-Foxcroft community members aren't happy the academy allowed the accused students to attend in-person classes since the alleged incident.
"The parents and members of the community should have absolutely known that this happened before it came out in a news article," Ashley Gosselin said. "The school should have been proactive in making sure that parents and community members knew the situation and knew the stance that they were taking so that then we had another opportunity to make our voices heard.”
Gosselin and Elizabeth Walsh, whose daughters attend Foxcroft Academy, are organizing a walkout and peaceful protest outside the school Wednesday.
Despite the fact that students are learning remotely for the day because of alleged threats made against the school, Walsh told NEWS CENTER Maine the protest would be held at 8:05 a.m. Wednesday, when the first bell would typically ring at the school.
Walsh and Gosselin said the purpose of the event is to let the victim know his community supports him.
"In regards to the walkout, we support and celebrate our students," Shorey said. "We just hope it's peaceful and safe."
The 16-year-old is set to make the next court appearance Aug. 12. The 17-year-old is expected to be in court on July 15.