Montville school officials allowing return of teacher and coach Tanner Grove to the classroom

·4 min read

Jan. 21—MONTVILLE — Schools Superintendent Laurie Pallin announced Tuesday that Tanner Grove, a teacher and football coach who was placed on paid leave for alleged sexual misconduct, will return to work Monday.

In addition, she said Thursday that school officials also have been cleared of allegations they failed to report Grove's actions to authorities.

Grove was placed on paid leave Oct. 14, 2021, after the mother of a 14-year-old high school girl said he leaned toward her daughter in class and told her she had a "nice ass."

Grove is a 1998 graduate of the school, where he has worked since 2005. He was in his 16th season as head football coach when he was placed on leave.

At Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, Pallin announced all state, local and district investigations related to the Grove incident have been closed and that Grove is returning to his teaching and coaching positions on Jan. 24.

Details about the results of the investigations have not been disclosed.

"We consider personnel matters to be confidential and cannot disclose any information about our investigation or the related DCF investigation," Pallin wrote in an email Thursday, referring to the state Department of Children and Families.

"I'm very happy the process was able to play out in the manner it did," Grove said in a phone call Thursday. "I'm thankful to return to Montville High, a place I'm proud to work at."

The girl's mother said Grove shouldn't be allowed back after multiple complaints have been made against him, referring to a student protest against Grove in October.

"I hope he doesn't hurt any other children," said the mother, who withdrew her two daughters from the school three months ago, in an interview.

The mother said she has since tried to re-enroll her daughters at the school but claims the administration suggested the girls attend Waterford Country School for a month before possibly allowing them back.

Pallin did not immediately respond to questions about the girls' enrollment.

The girl who made the report said it is not okay that Grove is being allowed back at the school when she is not. She said he can traumatize more kids and that she is scared for other alleged victims that attend the school when it is supposed to be a safe place.

School personnel do not face charges

Earlier this month, DCF confirmed that the New London State's Attorney's Office was investigating whether three Montville High School administrators failed to report the complaint against Grove, as required by state law.

The mother said her daughter reported the incident on Sept. 29 to school psychologist Jillian Porter at 7:30 a.m. before her class with Grove. She said her daughter also spoke with former Principal Heather Sangermano and Vice Principal Rob Alves that morning.

Mandated reporters, including teachers, principals and school psychologists, are required by state law to orally report suspected child abuse to law enforcement or DCF within 12 hours of receiving a complaint, and to follow that up with a written report within 48 hours or face criminal penalties.

But a state police spokeswoman said it was Montville police Officer Karen Aleshire — not school officials — who first reported the incident to DCF. A DCF spokesman confirmed the agency first received a report from police about Grove on Sept. 30 at 4:30 p.m.

The mother said that earlier that afternoon, she went with her daughter after school to the police station to file a report against the teacher. Following their conversation, she said Aleshire made a report to DCF.

Pallin said school personnel were not found in violation of the state mandated reporter law as of Jan. 10.

A statement from New London's State Attorney Paul Narducci on Thursday confirmed the results of the investigation.

"Although the comments by the teacher, if true, are wholly inappropriate and indefensible, it is my opinion that those words do not rise to 'abuse' or 'neglect' as defined in Section 46b-120, do not place the child in the imminent risk of physical harm, or fall within the proscribed actions set forth in Section 53a-70 et seq. of the Connecticut General Statutes," Narducci said. "Accordingly, there is no obligation by a mandated reporter to file a report pursuant to Sections 17a-101b to 17a-101d."

Pallin said that as of November, Alves was named the high school's interim principal and Sangermano now works at the Palmer Academy, an alternative high school in Montville, after applying for a vacant position with the Pathways Program.

j.vazquez@theday.com