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School demolishes symbol of abuse

FALMOUTH, Maine -- As an old farmhouse at the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf was burned down yesterday, flames consumed a symbol of abuse.

The house on the school's Mackworth Island campus had been empty for years but still served as a reminder of suffering experienced by students decades ago.

The Baxter school board voted in January to have the farmhouse demolished.

Abuse is alleged to have occurred at the school through the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1982, the Maine attorney general's office found that school staff members, including top administrators, seriously abused students. The investigation also found that improperly supervised staff members sexually abused students and that complaints were not adequately investigated by the state.

Governor Angus King apologized on behalf of the state in 2001.

Earlier this year, legislative budget writers heard pleas for a renewal of funding for the Baxter Compensation Authority.

Through January, compensation had been awarded to about one-third of 240 registered claimants, with total payments pegged at slightly more than $5 million.

Awards range from $25,000 to $100,000.

Lawmakers originally earmarked $6 million for administration and compensation. Legislation this year sought an additional $6 million.

Most recently, the Maine Senate unanimously approved an amendment designed to provide the money.

The Baldacci administration has signaled concern over the funding mechanism, a debt restructuring worth about $8 million in all.

Lawmakers are expected to take up the matter again when the House and Senate reconvene Tuesday after a 10-day break.

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