PLAISTOW — A Timberlane Regional High School math teacher facing three recent assault charges spent 23 years working in North Andover schools, according to a school official.
Plaistow police on Wednesday arrested David Russell, 63, for two counts of simple assault and a count of sexual assault against a student.
In the wake of that announcement, former North Andover students have come forward with more claims, including a petition — signed 15 years ago by a dozen middle school girls — to have Russell removed from the classroom back then.
North Andover Superintendent Gregg Gilligan, who was hired in 2017, said records in the Human Resources Department list Russell as a teacher from 1993 until his retirement in August 2016.
Gilligan was unaware of any petition and did not comment on whether disciplinary action was taken.
North Andover Det. Lieutenant Eric Foulds told The Eagle-Tribune that Russell was never criminally charged there. A request for any reports mentioning him could not be immediately fulfilled.
Russell’s Massachusetts teaching certification has been listed as “inactive/invalid” since 2014. Educators are allowed to work with that status for two years while completing renewal requirements.
He obtained his New Hampshire teaching certification in 2016, according to the state Department of Education.
A former student to come forward, Courtney Meskell, is now 24 and a mother herself.
“I’m disgusted,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine what’s going through these girls’ and parents’ heads.”
Meskell said she visited the Police Department with her parents in seventh grade to support a friend who reported inappropriate contact with Russell.
“I remember him being taken out of school for a couple weeks, but then he was moved from teaching math to physical fitness,” she said.
Ensuring their daughter stayed away, they had her enrolled in an alternative to gym class.
Sarah Kierstead, now 28, said she brought a hand-written petition to a trusted guidance counselor years earlier — in 2006.
“It got to the point that every student knew this. Even the boys, who weren’t affected by the uncomfortable things, knew what was going on,” Kierstead said. “This was before people really started coming forward with this stuff. It’s not like we saw some celebrity doing it. This was 15 years ago.”
The petition requested his removal from the classroom or at least a conversation about how students felt, she explained. She said it was ignored.
Both women have recently reconnected on social media with former classmates who had similar experiences.