December 3, 2016
December 3, 2016, WORCESTER, MA -- Mr. Derek P. Sylvester, a part-time music and theater arts teacher at St. Mary Elementary School in Shrewsbury and St. Joseph Elementary School in Webster, has been terminated from his positions due to allegations of sexual abuse reported to have occurred in the early 1990’s, prior to his employment at the schools. No information has come to the attention of either school of any untoward behavior by Mr. Sylvester while employed at any parish or diocesan school, nor as to any student of any of such school.
On November 7, 2016, Ms. Judith Audette, LICSW, Victim’s Assistance Coordinator for the Office of Healing and Prevention of the Diocese of Worcester, received a confidential report made by the alleged victim, now an adult, who claims that the incidents had taken place in the early 1990’s.
In keeping with its policies, the Diocese of Worcester promptly reported the allegation to the Worcester District Attorney’s office. Following subsequent conversations with the alleged victim by Ms. Audette, representatives of the schools informed Mr. Sylvester on November 10 of the receipt of an allegation of abuse and placed him on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation. His being placed on leave was done as a matter of policy and so as to allow completion of the investigation, rather than as a disciplinary measure. During that investigation, Mr. Sylvester was informed in detail of the allegation, given the opportunity to respond and denied that any sexual abuse had occurred.
On December 2, Mr. Sylvester was dismissed based on the Superintendent’s administrative investigation and recommendation. No definitive judgment has been made as to whether Mr. Sylvester had committed the alleged offenses, but the allegation was deemed more likely than not to be true and that his continued employment would present an unreasonable risk to students. He had remained on paid administrative leave until that time and had not been present in either of the schools since November 10.
Parents at both schools were notified of the decision by email and/or letter following the dismissal. This is a troubling matter for all involved and counseling services are being made available at both school communities if requested by students, their families or staff.
The diocesan Victim’s Assistance Coordinator can be contacted at 508-929-4363 if anyone has questions regarding the policy or any specific concerns regarding potential abuse of a child.