, Salem, MA

March 5, 2013

Official tied to school abuse case

By Michelle Pelletier Marshall

---- — BEVERLY — A Rowley official is defending his reputation as more-than-20-year-old allegations of child sexual abuse while he was a teacher at Landmark School in Beverly have resurfaced.

Last week, court documents surrounding a 1990 lawsuit accusing Planning Board chairman and former teacher Curtis Bryant of repeated and forcible sexual abuse of a teenage boy over three years at the private school were unsealed, raising questions about his past.

The allegations never resulted in any criminal charges and the case was settled by the school out of court for an undisclosed sum, with the records sealed by the courts. The following year, Bryant, a science teacher and hockey coach at Landmark, left the well-known boarding and day school in the Prides Crossing section of Beverly. The school enrolls students in grades two through 12 from across the country with language-based learning disabilities.

Now, as more former students have reportedly come forward in recent months with allegations of abuse by staff members — including two more complaints against the 57-year-old Bryant — a spokeswoman for the Essex County district attorney’s office confirmed last week that the new allegations are “currently being investigated.”

Carrie Kimball Monahan could not say how long that investigation would take. She added that no criminal charges have been filed at this time.

The court records were unsealed last week following a motion by The Boston Globe seeking their release. Five months after the Globe filed its motion, the state Supreme Judicial Court denied a final attempt by lawyers for Bryant, the school and the victim to keep the records impounded, the Globe reported.

Bryant, a married father of two and former director of the Rowley Youth Baseball and Softball League, would not comment on the lawsuit when reached last week.

What Bryant would say is that his dedication to the town shows in his years of service to the community — seven years as the chairman of the Conservation Commission, many years as director of the youth league, parent leader for Triton Regional Schools’ enrichment programs and, currently, his role on the Planning Board, an elected position he has held for the last four years.

Bryant is listed online as a property manager for Stergis Industrial Park in Dedham, a job he conducts out of his home office at 80 Boxford Road. The business had been owned by his late mother-in-law, Margery K. Stergis, who died in 2011.

“I have been here (in Rowley) since 1986 and only tried to do what was best for the town,” Bryant said in a telephone interview last week.

Bryant also said his first obligation is to his family, which includes a daughter at Triton Regional High School in Byfield and a son, a recent graduate of Harvard University.

“All that I am concerned about is my family — my wife, my daughter and my son,” Bryant said. “That is my priority.

Rowley selectmen won’t say if the allegations in the decades-old suit will affect Bryant’s position in town government. According to town laws, elected officials who are voted in by the townspeople cannot be removed by the Board of Selectmen.

This is not the first time that charges of sexual misconduct have been brought against employees at Landmark School.

Eleven former Landmark students, including three in recent months, have come forward to allege they were sexually abused while at the school. The charges range from verbal sexual harassment to sexual abuse and charge teachers, staff and food service workers in the accusations.