MIDDLETON, Mass. --
Officials in this small, rural town said that a 6-year-old first-grade student molested students in his classroom while the teacher's back was turned.
"We've had sexually inappropriate behavior at the first-grade level between students," admitted Superintendent Bernard Creeden.
The boy, whose name was not released by police or school officials, is accused of sexually assaulting at least 10 male students in his class.
"He was pulling kids' pants down, threatening to beat them up if they said anything to any adult and touching them," said the parent of one of the alleged victims, who did not wish to be identified. "He was massaging my son, asking him to pull his pants down or he was going to beat him up."
At a raucous public meeting Tuesday, during which police had to calm the crowd, parents accused Principal Malvena Baxter of knowing about the abuse a month ago. The school said it became aware of the incidents a week-and-a-half ago and notified parents on Friday.
Police believe the incidents may have started as physical bullying, progressed into sexual molestation and ended with the boy allegedly threatening his victims to keep quiet.
Under Massachusetts law, no one under 7 years old can be charged with a crime. Some of the alleged victims' parents said that is not what they wanted in any case.
"I don't necessarily believe that any of the parents there have any interest in persecuting a 6-year-old. It's more the negligence of the school. They didn't deal with it and just put a lot of other kids in harm's way," said the father of one of the alleged victims.
Creeden said that the boy was given a 10-day suspension and was placed in an alternative education facility. He said the school will review its internal policies about communicating with parents.