Scarborough police probe threats, harassment against school chief

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SCARBOROUGH — Police are investigating letters threatening Superintendent of Schools Julie Kukenberger and her family.

Police on Wednesday said they have evidence linking one individual to the letters, and the investigation indicates there are other people involved.

The School Board last week said anonymous letters disparaging Kukenberger were also sent to the homes of the five board members and Town Manager Thomas Hall.

Kukenberger has become a lightning rod for critics of the way she and the board handled the resignation of Scarborough High School Principal David Creech and disagreements over school start times. A recall election for three board members is likely to be held in May; proponents have said the recall is a device to elect replacements who would support Kukenberger’s dismissal.

There are several variations of the letters being investigated.

The letter sent to Hall March 29 said Kukenberger should be removed from her position, and said other letters about alleged inappropriate behavior would be sent to parents and the press.

The Police Department said a letter sent to Kukenerger’s spouse told the Kukenbergers they should plan on moving away because “it’s not ever going to get better here.”

The author of the letter also claimed to be aware of conversations that have taken place within the Kukenberger home. That is particularly concerning, police said, since it suggests someone is eavesdropping or recording the family’s private conversations.

Police said the intent is to harass and threaten Kukenberger’s safety, and they are taking the threat seriously. Sgt. Rick Rouse said more information would be released if a suspect is charged, and the charge would likely be harassment.

In its statement, the School Board said the letter it received was “threatening, demeaning, misogynistic, and defamatory.” The board said it is disturbing that members of the community would take the time to concoct such correspondence.

The board also revealed a person contacted Boston College, where Kukenberger is completing her doctoral program, and cast aspersions on both Kukenberger and the college. Members said somebody from Scarborough also contacted one of Kukenberger’s former employers in an effort to further defame her character.

The board also said it has sought legal advice, and described these developments as part of a pattern of slanderous attacks against Kukenberger, who has been the superintendent of schools since 2016.

“These actions demonstrate a willingness to threaten, harass, and engaging in potentially illegal activity,” the board said.

Petitions to recall three School Board members were certified Friday, April 6, by the town clerk’s office. Required Town Council public hearings are scheduled for April 25.

School Board Chairwoman Donna Beeley and members Cari Lyford and Jodi Shea are targeted for recall by a group calling itself Road to Renewal.  Petitioners have said the drive is a strategic move to seat a board that will ultimately remove Kukenberger. They believe Kukenberger and the board have demonstrated poor leadership and an unwillingness to listen to the community.

In response to the letter that threaten Kukenberger, Road to Renewal issued a statement on Facebook that said “This behavior is despicable and we condemn it as inappropriate and inflammatory. No matter what disagreements our community may be having regarding the state of our local government, it is highly irresponsible to make such slanderous and provocative statements.”

Kukenberger was contacted by email Monday, April 16, but declined to comment.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net or on Twitter @JulietteLaaka.

Scarborough police are investigating harassing letters sent to Superintendent of Schools Julie Kukenberger.

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