The Washington Post

Lanigan update: Fairfax schools issue statement

The Fairfax County School District, which has remained silent since the arrest of Sean Lanigan in January 2010, issued a statement Monday afternoon after a story about the case in Sunday’s Post. Here it is in its entirety:

“Please note that Mr. Lanigan has not signed a release that authorizes Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to discuss the specifics surrounding his case.  Consequently, FCPS can only share the following information. 

Fairfax County Public Schools’ top priority is to ensure the safety of all its students.  The school system followed its legal requirement when a complaint was made against Mr. Lanigan and reported it to authorities for their investigation. Virginia Code requires school personnel to immediately report to Child Protective Services (CPS) and/or law enforcement any reasonable suspicion that a child has been abused or neglected. Inappropriate touching by a caretaker meets the definition of abuse. Once the school makes such a report, disposition of the possible criminal charge is in the hands of the police and prosecutors.

 Our parents and community expect that school employees will be disciplined in instances of inappropriate behavior, regardless of whether the employee is found guilty of specific charges in a court of law.  This means the school system has an independent obligation to investigate alleged misbehavior, and take appropriate action, regardless of the outcome of the criminal and CPS proceedings. In any case involving a serious disciplinary proceeding, it is standard school system practice to place the teacher in a different school than the one where the dispute occurred; the purpose of this is to give the teacher and the originating school a fresh start.  The location of that placement varies with the teacher’s training, and the needs of the receiving school.

Mr. Lanigan has the opportunity to seek reimbursement of his legal fees from his teachers association.”

Asked about the final line of the statement, Fairfax schools spokesman Paul Regnier said that teachers associations provide insurance of up to $35,000 for its members. He acknowledged that did not cover Lanigan’s entire $125,000 legal bill, but declined to discuss specifics of the case.

Lanigan and his new attorney, William Reichhardt, both said they had no comment Monday night.

This item has been updated.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.


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