I guess some things will never change in a system that is definitely broke.Remember back to the Eduardo Genao incident. We were told by the Superintendent of Schools that safeguards were going to be put into place to protect children from predatory behavior by adults.
After the phone call I received yesterday, that apparently hasn't happened.
Sadly, my day started off yesterday with a very disturbing phone call from a parent of a Hartford Public Schools student.
The parent related a story that in and of itself was very disturbing, and the ensuing action by the Hartford Schools was even more disturbing.
And now keep in mind, this is information relayed from a parent, since the Hartford Schools will not comment and continue to operate in their cone of silence.
The parent stated that last week their child, a student at the Mary Hooker School in Hartford was called into the principals Office and then interrogated by the Principal and a School Security Guard regarding any inappropriate behavior or inappropriate contact between the student and a male teacher at the school.
I apologize up front for keeping the details very generic, but I just want to lay out the scenario at this point.
One of the most troubling points is that this interrogation was conducted of a juvenile without the knowledge or consent of the child's parents. And where does the Board of Education think that it is proper for a principal, most likely more interested in her own reputation than the welfare of the child would be an unbiased objective party. And what training or expertise does the Security Guard or even the Principal have in interrogating or interviewing a potential victim of what could eventually be seen as sexual misconduct by an adult.
And it gets worse.
Only after family members observed the child acting differently, did they even become aware of what was going on.
Only after intervention by the parents, did the young child admit that she "thought she might have gotten Mr XXXXXXXX in trouble". Only after further questioning did the child relate being interrogated by the School Principal and a Security Guard.
The parent naturally made a beeline for the school and the Principal's Office and instructed the Principal in no uncertain terms that their daughter was not to be interviewed or interrogated any further without their presence.
The Principal assured the parents that the teacher in question had been removed from the classroom pending their "investigation". Apparently the Principal also did cover her bass and informed DCF as required as a mandated reporter.
According to a source familiar with the matter, DCF claims that the Principal told them she didn't feel there was any basis for a further investigation so no case was opened. Surprise, surprise. The principal was protecting her own reputation I am sure.
The father returned to the school on Tuesday and lo and behold Mr. XXXXXXXX was back in his classroom. The father immediately questioned the School administration and he claims that he was told "Mr. XXXXXXXX was spoken to, and we no longer see him as a threat so we allowed him back" ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
I immediately contacted Chief Rovella and Deputy Chief Foley with my concerns. HPD claims they were unaware of the matter, they were never contacted by the Hartford Schools or evn DCF after it was reported to them.
HPD has now launched a potential criminal investigation and a detective has been assigned to the matter. The Hartford Schools have also now suspended the teacher while the matter is investigated.
In the end it may show that there is nothing there or it may indicate a problem. Either way, every child that is enrolled in the Hartford School System as well as every parent that entrusts their precious children to the care and control of the Hartford Schools every day deserve nothing less. And that is for every school, whether it is a flagship school or the worst performing school in the district, the standards and accountability should be the same.
Furthermore, stringent policies need to be in place for dealing with these matters. Immediately once an allegation is made,, the Principal and other school staff should be taken out of the loop to avoid any perception of impropriety or bias. If we demand incidents such as a police shooting be investigated by an outside agency from the start, such as the State's Attorney or the Connecticut State Police, then shouldn't we demand the same for Hartford's children when allegations are made involving a teacher.
Maybe someone could answer for me where a principal or a Security Guard received their training in investigating a possible criminal matter of a sexual nature involving a child. And what damage is done to a child if it isn't handled properly? and why would we trust school staff to investigate their own friends?
I am relatively sure HPD has well trained detectives to handle such matters with the minimum amount of stress and embarrassment to the child. They should be notified immediately when any whiff of impropriety arises. This needs to be standard policy if parents are to have any trust and confidence in the Hartford Schools.
The Superintendent and the Mayor promised it after Genao, now they need to deliver if they are to be trusted.
UPDATE: As of 5:00PM, despite a request for a comment from the Hartford Schools that I made to spokesperson Pedro Zayas, no response has been received and sources have confirmed that a criminal investigation is proceeding and the Teacher in question has been removed from the school until a resolution of the investigation
UPDATE: 8:10PM - the Board of Education has apparently just notified parents of students at Mary Hooker School that the Principal, Ms.Thompson has now also been placed on Administrative Suspension. The Board is expected to release a statement tomorrow