Police in Paris, Maine, are investigating an Oxford Hills Middle School substitute teacher over allegations that he inappropriately touched a 12-year-old female student, the Maine Wire has learned.
“The incident is under investigation,” Paris Police Chief Michael Dailey said in an email. “We are working with the school and the [School Resource Officer]SRO and piecing it all together,” he said.
The investigation follows complaints submitted to the school by South Paris resident Amy Borland, the mother of an Oxford Hills Middle School student.
Borland alleged last week in a public Facebook post that her daughter was the victim of unwanted sexual contact at the hands of a substitute teacher at the Oxford Hill Middle School’s campus in Paris.
In the Jan. 12 Facebook post, Borland accused John A. Bilowith, a former evangelical pastor, of having inappropriate physical contact with her daughter, who was a student in Bilowith’s classroom.
“He has been suspended from the Oxford hills middle school this afternoon because after my daughter went to the counselor and the principal about his actions on my daughters friends, HE THEN PROCEEDED TO SLAP MY DAUGHTER ON THE ASS AFTER TURNING IN HER ASSIGNMENT!” Borland wrote.
“She’s FRIGGIN 12 keep your dirty ass hands off my damn daughter!” she said.
Dailey said he could not comment on specific details of the investigation or charges.
In an email, Interim-Superintendent Heather Manchester confirmed that Bilowith is a substitute teacher for the district, but she said she cannot legally comment on the allegations or the existence of a SRO investigation.
“We take allegations of sexual assault very seriously in MSAD#17, but I cannot comment on this particular situation or any specific investigation about staff or student matters,” Manchester said in an email.
“I cannot legally answer your questions about the specific allegations you mentioned because they implicate statutes that require confidentiality for student and personnel matters, even if they are true,” she said. “However I am confident that if the SRO is investigating such allegations as you said, the matter will be addressed appropriately.”
In direct messages, Borland confirmed that she had complained directly to the school. As of Thursday, she had not heard back from the school.
Another parent in the school district who asked to remain anonymous said her son told her he witnessed Bilowith inappropriately touching Borland’s daughter.
“My son witnessed him grab his friends bottom while turning in paperwork,” she said in a direct message.
“It was witnessed by an entire classroom!” she said.
She said her son had previously complained that Bilowith’s behavior made him uncomfortable.
Marshall said some community members believe that the targeting of Borland’s daughter, who is one of the few black students in the school system, had racial overtones.
Oxford Hills Middle School Principal Jessica McGreevy declined to comment on the matter.
The Maine Wire contacted Bilowith on Jan. 13 via Facebook messenger to get his response to the public allegation leveled against him by Borland.
Bilowith did not responded to the inquiry. Instead, he deleted his entire Facebook profile.
Bilowith also did not respond to an email requesting comment.
His LinkedIn account indicates that he has served as the pastor of the Grace Fellowship Church in Oxford since Oct. 2021; however, church member Betty L. Ostrander said he was fired from the church last October.
Ostrander didn’t say why the church ended Bilowith’s pastorship with the church, but she did say that it had nothing to do with the misconduct allegations.
“We didn’t hear of these accusations until very recently,” she said.
According to Bilowith’s LinkedIn page, he has served as a pastor or religious counselor in various roles since graduating from the International School of Divinity with his Masters in Biblical Counseling, including a three-year stretch as a pastor at Barnabas Ministries in Hopkington, MA.
The current pastor at Barnabas confirmed Bilowith’s tenure there and said he left on good terms.
Bilowith’s LinkedIn page also says he served as a pastor at Grace Renewal Ministry in Skowhegan from May 2012 to Oct. 2022, but the Maine Wire was unable to find any record of such a church in Skowhegan. The profile item may refer to an online ministry.
Like any school employee, Bilowith would have been fingerprinted and subjected to a criminal background check prior to working in the public school, but it’s not clear whether the school reviewed his employment history.
Under Maine law, the alleged incident would be considered Unwanted Sexual Contact, which is considered a Class D Crime.
Class D crimes can carry a maximum jail sentence of 364 days and fines up to $2,000.