With the trial in the July 2011 slaying of 18-year-old Wayland High School senior Lauren Astley set to begin Monday, the town’s school system is preparing to help students and faculty cope with the expected publicity and questions that may arise.
Wayland School Superintendent Paul Stein sent a letter to the community last week outlining the school system’s approach and describing resources that are available. As the trial unfolds, Stein said it will undoubtedly rekindle memories of the students and the tragedy, and unleash a variety of emotions.
“It may be hard to make sense of it all as community members sort through their thoughts and reactions, as questions arise because of the trial, as witnesses are brought to the stand, and as the media descends,’’ he wrote. “For some, this will be like reliving a trauma, especially those who have had a strong connection to these former students and their families. For others, the trial may feel removed from their thoughts and feelings. Divergent and conflicting opinions will invariably emerge.’’
Nathaniel Fujita of Wayland faces murder charges in the death of Astley, his former girlfriend. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday morning, according to the Middlesex district attorney’s office.
Prosecutors say Fujita allegedly met with Astley at his home after she left work on July 3, 2011, and killed her, dumping her body in a marsh. The two students dated during high school but had broken up.
Stein said the high school faculty remains committed to providing students with the comfort of the regular routines. At the same time, the faculty will be available outside classes for those who have questions or need support.
“Questions can divert a class from its work and, in the process, risk touching off the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of others,’’ he wrote. “It is best to acknowledge that this is a difficult topic and to offer to talk to individual students after class, or to suggest meetings with counselors.’’
In the aftermath of the killing, Wayland High, which was already instructing students about healthy relationships, extended its outreach to ninth-graders and also offered advice to parents on how to address the subject with their children.
Astley’s father, Malcolm, expressed concern for Fujita’s family and also told the Globe last year that he wants to see increased awareness of teen-dating violence.
Fujita’s attorney, William Sullivan of the law firm Sullivan and Sweeney in Quincy, said he had no comment about the trial. He confirmed that the defense team had previously filed the required notice alerting the prosecution that insanity may be used as a possible defense.
Judge Peter Lauriat will preside over the trial, said Sullivan, which will take place at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn.
MaryBeth Long, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney office, said the trial is expected to last about two weeks.