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Proposed Changes in Response to Child Sexual Abuse Allegations

Authorities in Foxboro, Massachusetts, are pushing for changes to the way police respond to allegations of sexual abuse involving children.

Foxboro Police Chief William Baker admits the two-page proposal he wrote will be met with criticism years after allegations against former teacher William Sheehan.

"We're either serious in the post-Sheehan era about protecting children from sexual abuse and sexual exploitation or we're not," said Baker.

The policy he drafted is for the town's Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Committee. It would change the way they react to accusations of sexual abuse toward children that do not rise to the level of criminal charges.

"What we're trying to do is fill a gap — a critical gap," said Baker.

As drafted, if there is "reasonable suspicion" someone is involved in predatory behavior, they could be banned from town properties where they'd be near children.

"If you were interacting with children as a youth coach, for example, we would try to prevent you from having access to any town-owned facilities where you would be performing that roll," said Baker.

The proposal is a response to a lawsuit against the town involving Sheehan, who was accused of sexually abusing children decades ago. He was never criminally charged.

The lawsuit said the town gave Sheehan "free reign" with "inadequate oversight."

If the proposal is approved, the police, town manager and board of selectmen would decide if the evidence is enough to warrant a ban.

"The standard of proof in these settings is different," said Baker. "The standard of proof in a criminal case is without a reasonable doubt. The standard to apply a disinvite notice, or to try and do something to prevent perpetrators from having to access to children in a civil context, is much less than beyond a reasonable doubt."

The child abuse committee will now discuss the proposal and the board of selectmen will then vote on it.

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