Maine finds no abuse in probe prompted
by Skakel trial
STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) - In a probe prompted by the murder trial
of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel, Maine education officials have
found no evidence of abuse at a drug treatment school Skakel
attended in the 1970s.
Skakel's trial included testimony by his classmates about
humiliation, confrontation and physical force endured by students
at the Elan School in Poland, Maine. Skakel called the school "a
concentration camp for kids."
Skakel, 41, was convicted on June 7 of murdering Martha Moxley
in 1975 when they were both 15-year-old neighbors in a wealthy,
gated community in Greenwich. He is to be sentenced on Aug. 28 in
Norwalk Superior Court.
Maine investigators visited the Elan School twice in recent
months. While the report is not complete, preliminary evidence
indicates that students at the school are safe, Yellow Light Breen,
spokesman for the Maine Department of Education, told The Advocate
"We haven't seen anything that would suggest that students are
at risk at the Elan School," Breen said.
Maine authorities investigated the program for troubled teens
after several former students testified at Skakel's trial about
physical and verbal abuse he endured while at Elan from 1978 to
Some former students described how Skakel was forcibly returned
to the school after an escape and confronted about the Moxley
killing. When he denied involvement, Skakel was put in a boxing
ring and forced to fight other students who beat him severely,
according to testimony.
Other punishment including forcing him to wear a sign around his
neck that read in part, "Confront me on why I killed my friend
Skakel's lawyer, Michael Sherman, denied that Skakel confessed
to the murder while at Elan. He argued that the school's abusive
conditions influenced statements Skakel made about the night of
Maine officials called for an investigation to see if the school
was complying with current law. The Maine Department of Education
is the only licensing body for Elan, which was last certified in
1998, Breen said.
"We felt it was important to provide assurances to the public
and the parents that we were on top of whatever was going on at the
school," Breen said.
The investigation also followed a complaint filed in March by
Canadian officials who protested the treatment of two teenagers
Canadian officials said the teens, who had stayed at Elan for
several years, were subject to extreme disciplinary measures, such
as the use of restraints to keep them from running away.
The investigators discussed the use of "mechanical
restraints," such as straight jackets and handcuffs, with school
officials, Breen said.
A Maine law passed last year outlawed such restraints, but the
school has a policy for using such devices in situations in which
students are threat to themselves or others, Breen said.
"They've reported to us that the use of restraints is targeted
at those emergency situations only," Breen said.
The final report on the investigation is due by the end of the
month, Breen said.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)