As of early this week, Somerset Hills school officials said in a memo sent out to parents that no school facilities or students in the Somerset Hills district were involved in any of the charges against Patrick Lott, who the Somerset Hills school district on Monday placed on indefinite leave from his job as assistant principal at the Bernardsville Middle School.
A question and answer memo was sent out to parents in the Somerset Hills School District as of Tuesday regarding the district's handling of the arrest of Bernardsville Middle School's assistant principal, Patrick Lott, in late December. Lott faces numerous charges in regard to allegations that he previously had videoed male students in the shower at Immaculata High School in Somerville while serving in a volunteer role.
The district is fully cooperating with an ongoing investigation by the Somerset County prosecutor's office, the memo said. No complaints had been received within the Somerset Hills school district regarding child abuse or endangerment regarding Lott, according to the information.
The Somerset Hills school board apparently voted on Monday to indefinitely place Lott on an unpaid leave of absence. School officials previously announced that investigators had also searched all Somerset Hills schools, and found no hidden cameras.
The information sheet also said that Lott's last day in his role in the district was Dec. 9, and the district reportedly was first informed about an investigation against Lott on Dec. 12.
Below is the copy of the memo sent to Somerset Hills Regional school parents:
Please be reminded that the investigation regarding Mr. Lott’s alleged actions at Immaculata High School is ongoing. The purpose of this question and answer document is for the Somerset Hills Board of Education and Administration to provide factual information to members of The Somerset Hills School District (SHSD) Community.
Q1. Has the Board of Education taken any action relating to Mr. Lott’s employment in the district?
A1. The Somerset Hills Board of Education met on Monday, January 9, 2012, and took the following action: Effective immediately, Mr. Lott has been placed on an indefinite unpaid leave of absence.
Q2. What are the plans to fill the Bernardsville Middle School Assistant Principal position?
A2. Mrs. Lynn Sharp, former Bedwell and BMS Assistant Principal, began serving as the BMS Acting Assistant Principal on Tuesday, January 3. Mrs. Sharp is a Bernardsville resident with children attending school in the district. Mrs. Sharp plans to remain in this position as long as needed.
Q3. When was the district notified of the investigation and arrest?
A3. Mr. Lott was last in the district on Friday, December 9, 2011. On Monday, December 12, the district was informed that Mr. Lott would be absent until after the holiday break. Later that day, the district was first notified of the investigation by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office. From December 12 until the arrest, details of the investigation were not provided to the district. However, the district has and will continue to fully cooperate with the investigation.
The district was notified of the arrest and charges on December 28, which was the same day that it was announced to the media by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.
Q4. Is SHSD involved in any of the charges against Mr. Lott?
A4. As of January 9, 2012, there are no SHSD students or facilities involved in any of the charges against Mr. Lott.
Q5. Have the SHSD facilities been checked for recording devices?
A5. Detectives from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office have searched the SHSD facilities and no recording devices of any type were found.
Q6. Is there additional information that the district has about the investigation that is not being shared?
A6. All information that the district has been provided has been shared, except for health information (see #7 below). The district has no knowledge of other information except for what is contained within this communication and those previously sent. Please keep in mind that this is an ongoing investigation, and the district is fully cooperating. As recently as January 9, the district has confirmed that none of the charges involve the Somerset Hills School District students or facilities.
Q7. Does the district know the current status of Mr. Lott’s health?
A7. The district is not permitted by both State and Federal confidentiality laws to share any information regarding the status of any employee’s health.
Q8. Has SHSD received any complaints against Mr. Lott related to any type of child endangerment or child abuse?
A8. The district has not received any complaints relating to any type of child endangerment or child abuse from students, parents, staff, administration, Board of Education members, other schools, community organizations or civic groups in which Mr. Lott has been affiliated.
Q9. Why was Mr. Lott transferred from BHS to the BMS in 2009?
A9. Mr. Lott was transferred back to BMS in 2009 as a result of a long term district administrative reorganization plan that addressed both budget reductions and increased curriculum supervision at BHS.
Q10. How are applicants screened?
A10. Every finalist for every position in the district goes through a criminal history background check that includes a fingerprint search conducted by the New Jersey State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation. This screening is facilitated by the Department of Education’s Criminal History Review Unit. Additionally, the district receives weekly updates from the Department of Education with information about applicants or employees who have been or may be disqualified from public school employment based on a recent arrest or indictment.
Furthermore, employees are required by both law and district policy to report an arrest or indictment for any crime or offense to the Superintendent within fourteen calendar days in accordance with the provisions of N.J.A.C. 6A:9-17.1.
Multiple reference checks are completed by district administrators for each finalist for every position in the district.
For all administrative positions, a committee of parents, teachers, administrators, and Board of Education members participate in the interview process and make a recommendation for a finalist to the Board’s Personnel Committee.
Q11. How long will services be available to students and staff?
A11. Counseling services will be available to students and staff for as long as they are needed. The district continues to work closely with the Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center and is currently in the process of coordinating additional activities. More information will be available shortly.
Q12. Can the district offer ongoing student programs related to this topic?
A12. Based upon what has taken place recently throughout the country, the district is in the process of organizing an Advisory Group comprised of a variety of stakeholders to discuss the need for possible age appropriate curriculum additions, assemblies, workshops, etc.