NORTH ANDOVER — The School Committee is anticipating a large crowd at Thursday night's regularly scheduled meeting and will allow public comment.
Members of the committee, however, will not participate in the discussion. Rather they will allow residents to air their opinions about the recent revelation of "School Safety Plans" being implemented in cases of sexual assault between students.
The safety plans limit the movement of girls who report sexual assaults around the school building to keep them out of contact with those who sexually assaulted them.
Several area school superintendents have said the use of the safety plans with those who have been sexually assaulted is not appropriate. An attorney has said the plans violate the girls’ civil rights and may be unconstitutional.
In a note to parents and guardians last Friday, School Committee Chairwoman Holly Vietzke-Lynch said town officials would be available to answer questions from the public Thursday night.
"We will have both the town and school attorneys present, along with the police chief, to answer any questions about procedures and the law," she said in the statement. "We are very interested in hearing your comments. There is always a way we can do better, and the committee is focused on finding that way."
According to Vietzke-Lynch, that is no longer the plan.
"It is not on the agenda because we will not be discussing it tomorrow," Vietzke-Lynch told a reporter via email Wednesday. "Tomorrow is to hear public comments only. The comments will be shared with the outside expert as part of his review, and we will consider them to see how we can improve our policies, which we will be discussing at a future meeting."
North Andover High students and alumni told The Eagle-Tribune they reached out to state Rep. Christina Minicucci, D-North Andover, to back them in asking committee members to add discussion with the public to Thursday's meeting agenda.
Instead of the typical, smaller venue at the school administration building, this week's public meeting will be hosted at the North Andover Middle School auditorium. It's slated to begin at 7 p.m.
Like all town meetings, it will be live-streamed on community television, Vietzke-Lynch said. The Eagle-Tribune also will air the meeting on its website, www.eagletribune.com.
Superintendent Gregg Gilligan said last week the district would hire an outside attorney to review policies, practices and forms before presenting the findings to the community.
Details of that hire have not been made public.
Another girl said she was assaulted by a different student and received a safety plan of her own.
Students became invested in establishing a clear sex assault policy after recent news of a senior arrested for allegedly raping a girl twice in New Hampshire. Two classmates came forward to The Eagle-Tribune to say the boy, Eliezer Tuttle, 18, also assaulted them. School administrators reacted by having them sign no-contact orders, labeled "School Safety Plans," while Tuttle remained in school.