Questions remain about Beardsley’s knowledge of sex abuse case during tenure as university president
AUGUSTA—Maine Senate Democrats voted against the nomination of Bill Beardsley to the State Board of Education. At issue is Beardsley’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against Rev. Bob Carlson, a former chaplain at Husson University, where Beardsley served as president during Carlson’s nine year employment.
“I cannot ignore Dr. Beardsley connection to Rev. Carlson. The revelations of Rev. Carlson’s abuse were tragic. Yet, in every situation like this, there were always people who knew, people who could have spoken up, people who could have asked questions—actions that could have prevented further abuse,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Senator Justin Alfond (D-Portland) who led the floor debate.
During yesterday’s committee hearing, lawmakers on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee voted in support of Beardsley’s nomination in a party line vote of 6—4.
Alfond who also serves on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee added, “As long as a cloud of doubt remains, we cannot turn a blind eye. Rubber stamping Beardsley to Maine’s premier educational board would only diminish the stature and confidence this board should bring to our educators, parents, and students.”
“We are not here to act as judge and jury of Dr. Beardsley. We are here, however, to vote on whether or not it is in the best interest of our children and our state for Dr. Beardsley to be appointed,” said Senator Seth Goodall (D-Richmond). “A cloud has developed about what was known and what should have been done by Dr. Beardsley. As long as that cloud remains, it will cast doubt on the policies and the actions of the State Board of Education.”
According to a 104-page report by the Maine State Police, students told Beardsley about the abuse and he knew as early as 2005 that Carlson was “not who he appeared to be”.
“This is not about politics. Instead, it is about thinking about kids first. As we’ve seen with other situations, institutional instinct is very strong. Often times the institutional instinct is to huddle around the institution—and ignore kids,” said Senator Bill Diamond (D-Windham), a longtime advocate for child abuse victims and author of the book, The Evil & The Innocent. “This story is not over and we don’t want to look back, like the board of trustees at Penn State and see that the institution took precedence over the protection victims of sexual assault. Do we want to put our stamp of approval that has yet to be finalized?”
Several other Senate Democrats stood up in opposition to Dr. Beardsley’s nomination including Senator Chris Johnson, Senator Cynthia Dill, Senator Elizabeth Schneider, and Senator Nancy Sullivan.