HAVERHILL — A Haverhill High School physical education teacher and longtime girls soccer coach has been placed on paid administrative leave for the second time in 2021 while officials review the results of an investigation by the state’s Department of Children and Families into allegations of abuse and neglect of a minor.

School Superintendent Margaret Marotta said this week that she placed Fred Tarbox on paid administrative leave while the district awaits what she said is the receipt of information that is necessary to an ongoing investigation.

“Upon receipt of this information we will investigate and review and take appropriate action,” she said. 

In March, Tarbox was placed on paid administrative leave, although school officials would not state why.

Assistant Superintendent Michael Pfifferling said in August that Tarbox would return to his duties at Haverhill High for the 2021-22 school year. 

School officials also said Tarbox was replaced as the varsity girl’s soccer coach, a position he’d held since 2007.

“I can assure you that we take allegations of abuse and neglect very seriously,” Marotta said this week. “It is our policy that when a 51A is screened-in involving a staff member, that staff member is placed on paid leave while the parties investigate and resolve the allegation.”

In referencing a 51A, Marotta was referring to a report of child abuse and neglect filed with the Department of Children and Families.

This week, however, a parent provided The Eagle-Tribune with a copy of a letter from DCF indicating the allegations of neglect against Tarbox were supported. 

However, Marotta maintains that was not the finding the agency delivered to the district. 

“DCF has acknowledged their grave error and it is my understanding that DCF is conducting an internal investigation to determine how this happened,” she said. 

Andrea Grossman, spokeswoman for DCF, responded to Marotta’s claim saying, “The department has initiated an internal review with the Haverhill area office to understand what occurred and determine appropriate next steps.”

In April, Marotta confirmed that Tarbox had been place on paid administrative leave on March 18 by then-Haverhill High Principal Glenn Burns, who has since left the district for a job in the Salem, Massachusetts.

Marotta said at the time that because it was personnel matter, she could not discuss the reason for the action against Tarbox.

“When we place someone on paid leave, we conduct an investigation, which involves representatives from the school system and the (teachers) union, who will look into why he was placed on leave,” Marotta said in April.

In April, Tarbox said he was asked not to comment until the situation was resolved. 

The action against Tarbox earlier this year came several months after a group of Haverhill High alumni organized to demand the school be investigated for a long-existing social culture allowing inappropriate interaction between staff and students. That demand came as history teacher and Model UN advisor Zachary Simmons resigned during an investigation into alleged inappropriate behavior with female students.

As news of the resignation was made public, Marotta said the investigation “concerning allegations about the culture at Haverhill High made by young women” was continuing and would extend several years prior to the administrations of both her and Burns.

Marotta also said the investigation would examine the conduct of school personnel other than the teacher who resigned.

She said that as a result of the investigation, the school provided professional development and training to teachers. 

Marotta noted there are many reasons why a teacher would be placed on paid administrative leave.

 

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