Landmark Case Involving New Hampshire Teacher Moves to Judicial Mediation


Brentwood, N.H. — A significant criminal case has taken a new turn as it enters judicial mediation, thereby postponing the scheduled October trial of the first New Hampshire teacher to be charged with engaging in sexual relations with an adult-age student.

Bridgette Doucette-Howell, 39, hailing from Merrimack, is facing three counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault for purportedly having intercourse with a student who was 18 years old at the time. She also stands accused of one count of felonious sexual assault for allegedly kissing the student.

The charges stem from alleged incidents that occurred in Kingston and Exeter between April 26 and May 13, 2021. Doucette-Howell made history by being the first individual charged under the new state law implemented in January 2021.

The new law designates it a Class A felony for any figure of authority — be it an employee, contractor, or volunteer — in a primary or secondary educational institution to engage in sexual activity with a student, regardless of the student's age, extending up to 10 months after their "graduation or departure." As per New Hampshire law, the victim's consent is not considered a defense.

Reports indicate that at the time of the alleged incidents, Doucette-Howell served as a drama coach at Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, maintaining a limited connection with the school through its theater arts extracurricular program.

Although the trial was initially set for October 9, both the defense and the prosecution filed a motion to delay the proceedings and opt for judicial mediation. They stated in court documents that a plea agreement was being negotiated.

The motion specified, "Parties are in agreement as to what the Defendant would plea to...however, cannot reach an agreement on the terms at this time. As such, the parties believe a judicial mediation with a senior justice would facilitate a negotiated disposition in this matter."

Doucette-Howell, a graduate of the University of New Hampshire with both a bachelor's and a master’s degree, was a finalist for Teacher of the Year in 2016 by the New Hampshire Department of Education. This recognition was for her dedicated service as a special education teacher at Regional Services and Education Center, private schools located in Amherst and Deerfield.

Following her indictment, the Department of Education suspended her teaching license. Her attorney, Kurt Olson, maintained her innocence of all charges.

Doucette-Howell pleaded not guilty and was released on personal recognizance bail, with conditions including no contact with the alleged victim and no unsupervised contact with children under 18, except for her own.

Rockingham County Attorney Patricia Conway stated that if convicted, Doucette-Howell could face a potential maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison for each count of aggravated felonious sexual assault. The charge of felonious sexual assault carries a possible sentence of 3½ to 7 years, according to the indictment.