Fisher high school senior charged with sexually assaulting kindergartener
FISHER, Minn. -- A high school senior who attended the high school here is in jail in Crookston, charged with sexually assaulting a kindergarten student while helping out in the class.
The charges spurred questions Tuesday night from parents of kindergartners during a 75-minute meeting with school officials over how Jarrin Boucher, 18, was given access to the student in her classroom through a special program.
Boucher appeared last week in state district court in Crookston on charges of first-degree and second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a 6-year-old girl.
Jim Tadman, investigator with the Polk County Sheriff's Office, said deputies interviewed Boucher, who was arrested April 27, a day after authorities learned of the allegations.
As news of the charges became public Tuesday, school officials met with seniors and met with parents of kindergarten students that night.
Boucher lives in Crookston but attends high school in Fisher, which is 8 miles west of Crookston.
Boucher was assigned to help the kindergarten teacher, Bonnie Nygren, for about 90 minutes a day as part of a Youth Service program in which some of the 21 seniors in Fisher High School can help teachers with younger students for class credit, according to Superintendent Don Blaeser.
According to the complaint, the girl told her father on April 25 that Boucher had "touched her in the wrong place in school that day."
An investigation by the Polk County Sheriff's Office began, at the request of Fisher's part-time police officer, said Investigator Jim Tadman.
Confronted by the girl's accusations that he touched her improperly on three occasions April 25, Boucher --- who turned 18 on April 15 -- initially denied them. But under questioning, he admitted putting his hand under the girl's clothing on two occasions that day, according to the complaint.
Boucher appeared in court on the charges May 1 and remains in the Tri-County jail in Crookston under $250,000 bond.
The maximum penalty on the first-degree charge is 30 years in prison and is 25 years on the second-degree charge.
A school counselor and administrator met with seniors Tuesday in Fisher because of concerns about the story being reported in the news media, Blaeser said. Last week, school counselor Gail Kasowski talked to the kindergarten students about it.
Tuesday night, Kasowski, Blaeser and other school officials as well as mental health professionals met with two dozen parents of kindergarten students in the school library.
"I never even knew (Boucher) was in the classroom for an hour and 45 minutes every day," said Michelle LaCoursiere, who has a child in the same kindergarten class.
LaCoursiere several times during the meeting criticized school officials for not telling parents enough about the Youth Service program, as well as the allegations which came to light last month.
Nygren, the kindergarten teacher was not at the meeting Tuesday night by her own choice, said Blaeser. But when the allegations first came out in late April, investigators asked school officials not to talk much about it, Baesler said.
Last week, when Boucher was charged in court, Baesler called all the parents. But LaCoursiere had changed jobs and he didn't have a phone number to reach her immediately, for which he apologized.
LaCoursiere wondered about why parents seemed to not know who was in the classroom with their students during Youth Service.
"Why is she still working," LaCoursiere asked Blaeser and other school officials about Nygren. "Why isn't she suspended?"
One father asked why Boucher was allowed to lay down with kindergarten students during nap time.
But other parents defended Nygren and other school officials, saying Boucher's alleged crime could have happened quickly in a classroom of 16 students.
"I have three children and I don't know where each of them is every minute," said one mother.
Baesler told parents the school is investigating the whole incident, including whether Nygren was in the classroom at the time of the alleged incidents.
Kasowski became tearful as she told parents she has run the Youth Service program for 20 years and never saw a problem. She has known Boucher since he was in kindergarten and never dreamed he could do what he's charged with doing, she said.
"These kids are like our kids," she said. "We would never put your kids at risk."
Most of the students are great and good, and the mentoring that goes on through the Youth Service has been great for older and younger students alike, Kasowski said.
And young people are very resilient, she said.
"Your kids are so amazing. Their lives are not over, their lives are not wrecked. We are going to all heal together," she said.
At the request of Polk County investigators, the school advised parents to speak to law enforcement directly about any concerns about other possible victims of Boucher, Blaeser said.
"I know that the sheriff's department contacted some parents, but I don't know how many," Blaeser said.
He said the incident has led school officials to re-examine the Youth Service program, which has been going on for more than 20 years in the Fisher school placing older students in younger students' classrooms to help out and learn.
"It's limited to juniors and seniors," Blaeser said. "The idea is that, in some case, people who have experience and interest in perhaps becoming elementary school teachers and want to have a clue to what happens on the other side of the desk," spend an hour or two a day helping teachers with younger students.
"It's been going on for a long time, but unfortunately, in this case, this situation occurred," he said. "But I've been in four different schools as a superintendent and one of the goals was always to have older students involved with younger students, because they learn by teaching."
Still, he figures changes will be made.
"We have an attorney who has interviewed staff and is looking at the procedures and policies we have in place and will be making a recommendation," Blaeser said. "I would assume it will have some effect on the program."
Boucher will not graduate May 18 with his class, Blaeser said.