Principals Arrested for Not Reporting Abuse

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School administrators in two recent instances, one in Texas, the other in Florida, are facing criminal charges for failing to notify the required authorities after hearing allegations that a teacher had sexually assaulted a student.

In Fort Worth, Texas, Principal Sherry Breed and Vice Principal Hilaria Ruiz of the 800-student Sagamore Hill Elementary School were arrested last week on such charges.

In the state of Texas, failure to report suspected child abuse is punishable by law as a misdemeanor offense.

All states require school administrators to report any suspicion of child abuse to the proper authorities. ("For Teachers, Reporting Abuse Is a Tough Call," April 15, 1998.)

Ms. Breed and Ms. Ruiz could each face a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine if they are found guilty of not reporting a possible case of sexual abuse by a 1st grade teacher who was convicted in March of an earlier sexual assault.

The allegations against the administrators came out during the teacher's recent trial.

Superintendent Thomas Tocco of the Fort Worth schools said he believes the administrators will be exonerated, but he recently sent a letter to school employees reminding them to report any suspected child abuse.

"There is a large gray area" when it comes to reporting abuse allegations, he said in an interview. "When in doubt, report."

And in another recent case, Clifford Durden, the principal of the 200-student John F. Kennedy Middle School in Riviera Beach, Fla., was charged last month with failing to report suspected sexual abuse by a 22-year-old band teacher.

The criminal charges against Mr. Durden were filed following a school district investigation.

Mr. Durden's lawyer, Sammy Berry Jr., said the charges against the principal were "unjust."

"It is of great concern to me that this is a stain on a career that spans 30 years of excellence," said Mr. Berry.


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