Kings Highway principal, staff return after 'allegations' review

WESTPORT — Kings Highway Elementary School Principal Mary Lou DiBella and four other Kings educators who were placed on administrative leave in January due to unspecified allegations have returned to the school, Assistant Superintendent Anthony Buono announced in an email to parents Monday.

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“They had been on administrative leave without prejudice following allegations that were thoroughly addressed through a comprehensive review process. Immediately upon receiving the results of this review process, we decided without hesitation to return these educators to KHS the following day,” Buono wrote in the email sent around noon.

Although Buono did not provide details about the allegations, Westport Now reported on Feb. 5 that they stemmed from a complaint filed with the state regarding an incident in which a 6-year-old special needs student was restrained, according to a parent reportedly familiar with the matter.

“In circumstances such as these, the school community often has more questions than we are legally permitted to answer due to confidentiality rules imposed by federal and state laws,” Buono wrote in the email to parents.

In her original email to Kings Highway families on Jan. 28 announcing the employees’ leave, Superintendent Colleen Palmer said the “staff members will not be in the building for at least the next few days.”

In total, DiBella and the other educators were on leave for two months.

“You always have goals of what you’re hoping things will take and sometimes they take longer,” schools Human Resources Director John Bayers said in an interview with the Westport News on Feb. 14. “At the end of the day, it’s important reviews are done in a very prudent manner and that you make sure you’ve completed the process. You can always have a set of goals, but you need to make sure you’re doing due diligence when following through on something.”

Principal Mary Lou DiBella started as head of Kings Highway, one of five public elementary schools in Westport, in 2016 following 11 years as an elementary school principal in Massachusetts.; 203-842-2638; @SophieCVaughan1