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Fate of school employees who supported molester divides Bedford

Union Leader Correspondent

August 28. 2018 9:24AM
Signs reading "Bedford deserves better," and "Resign now," were posted in the back of the Bedford school administrative offices on Monday night during a school board meeting. Supporters and critics of three school employees currently under investigation attend the meeting to make their voices heard. (Kimberly Houghton)

BEDFORD — Although there were protesters calling for the resignation of three school employees on Monday, for the first time since an investigation began into their possible misconduct there was also public support for the three women.

On the same day Superintendent Mike Fournier received an independent report on the investigation into Zanna Blaney, the Dean of Student Services at Bedford High School, as well as two school counselors, Alison Mattson and Christine Mulcahey, parents said the controversy is dividing the Bedford community.

Blaney recently provided glowing testimony in support of former Exeter High School guidance counselor Kristie Torbick at her sentencing hearing; Torbick pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student outside of the Bedford school system. Mattson and Mulcahey were among 23 people who wrote letters of support for Torbick.

Protesters stood outside Bedford High School on Monday morning as teachers attended a district meeting the day before school began for students. Signs seeking the resignations of the three women were also posted Monday evening at the school board meeting.

Struggling with Lyme disease for the past four years, Bedford High senior Alec Dalton told the school board that Mattson helped him set a goal, pick himself up and provide him with hope.

“It was a very dark period in my life ... but Ali was there for me,” said Dalton, adding his high school counselor has had a tremendous impact on his life.

Describing Mattson as a woman who strives to help others, Dalton said he would hate to see her dismissed from her duties.

Dalton’s mother, Chrisann Dalton, said she feels horribly for Torbick’s victim, adding the district must create a policy preventing teachers from testifying in these types of cases.

Still, the elder Dalton voiced support for her son’s counselor, saying that people make mistakes. She stressed the importance of working through such conflicts and coming out stronger on the other side.

Others urged the school board to resolve the matter quickly. A non-public session has been scheduled for today to discuss personnel issues, most likely the results of the investigation and any possible recommendations from Fournier.

“There should be consequences for their actions,” Ellie Therrien said of the three school district employees.

Therrien said the controversy has cast a negative light on the local school system, adding she is concerned for her grandchildren at the high school because three employees chose to support a confessed child molester.

Joe Razcka agreed, saying the great reputation of the Bedford schools is slipping.

“Enough is enough,” he said, adding it is incomprehensible how a school counselor could support another guidance counselor convicted of sexual assault on a teenager.

“They made some bad choices — some bad character flaws,” he said of Blaney, Mattson and Mulcahey.

Another local parent, Nicole Faxon, offered a different viewpoint. She described all three staff members as professional role models who have been outstanding throughout the past several years.

Although they likely struggled with the decision and do not condone Torbick’s behavior, they still erred in judgement, said Faxon, urging the board to use compassion and forgiveness when deciding their fate.

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