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May 14, 2012

Guard accused of attack reinstated

LAWRENCE — A security guard who was suspended after his arrest on charges of punching and kicking a teen at a high school campus in November is back on the job following an investigation by the school district that concluded the suspension was not warranted.

Richard Rivera, 42, was reassigned to the Guilmette middle and elementary schools after his reinstatement last month.

He is the second security officer suspended and later reinstated by Lawrence schools this year after being charged with violent crimes. Last month, guard Rene Graziano returned to work after a judge dismissed assault charges and a jury acquitted him of a weapons charge following a late-night altercation in a downtown parking lot.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Mary Lou Bergeron yesterday would not comment on Rivera's return or provide details of the internal investigation and hearing that followed the alleged assault, which she described as "an altercation involving a non-student, who was an alleged trespasser." But she said the school district "will have the legal right to take additional actions relative to (Rivera's) continued employment" if he is convicted.

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for June 19 in Lawrence District Court.

Rivera was suspended after allegedly punching and kicking an 18-year-old man who visited the school district's High School Learning Center on Haverhill Street on Nov. 17 to ask about obtaining a graduate equivalency diploma, or GED.

Police reports say the teen, John Hartley III, left the building after meeting with school principal Christina DiBenedetto and then returned to meet a friend. Rivera confronted Hartley in a cafeteria, told him he was trespassing and asked him to leave.

The confrontation escalated, but Rivera denied hitting Hartley. DiBenedetto said she witnessed the assault. Hartley was treated for pain and a bruise to his jaw at Lawrence General Hospital.

Rivera, of 92 Andover St., was charged with felony assault and battery and ordered to stay away from the school and from Hartley, who is now 19.

Rivera, a guard in Lawrence schools since Nov. 20, 2006, was suspended without pay for about four months. Bergeron did not respond to a question about whether he will be compensated for his lost pay. He earns $17.88 an hour.

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