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June 7, 2006

Authority completes state compensation to school's abuse victims

From: Boston Globe, United States - Jun 7, 2006

AUGUSTA, Maine --A state panel that oversaw compensation of more than $17 million to victims of abuse at Maine's Baxter School for the Deaf has completed its job and will go out of business June 16.

The Baxter School Compensation Authority was formed in 2001 and first met the following year to determine compensation for students who had been physically and sexually abused at the state-run school on Mackworth Island in Falmouth.

Abuses by staff members, including top administrators, were alleged to have occurred through the 1960s and '70s and were investigated by the state attorney general's office in the early 1980s. In 2001, Gov. Angus King apologized to the victims on behalf of the state.

When it completed its work, the compensation authority had adjudicated 361 claims and found 340 of them to be eligible for compensation totaling $17.6 million, according to state Senate President Beth Edmonds' office. The settlements, most of which came in sums of $25,000, $60,000 or $100,000, have come from a series of appropriations over the last few years.

"Many people worked hard to bring this difficult chapter to a close," said Edmonds, D-Freeport, a leader of legislative efforts to fund the settlements. "This is a true example of government doing the right thing to right egregious wrongs which had been in the past."

In a symbolic gesture to put the events in the past, an old, vacant farmhouse at the Baxter school where many of the abuses were alleged to have occurred was burned down in April 2004. The school's board had voted earlier in the year to have the farmhouse demolished.

Last year, the school's name was changed by the Legislature to the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, The Gov. Baxter School for the Deaf.


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