Sex abuse scandal enveloping Connecticut magnet school
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — As parents prepare to send their children to a Connecticut magnet school next month, police are continuing an investigation that has led to sexual assault charges against two former staff members and a lawsuit from an administrator who says she was punished for cooperating with the police investigation.
Corriche Gaskin, 35, who served as a behavioral specialist in charge of discipline at New London's Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, is accused of sexually assaulting two students and videotaping sexual encounters, including with a teacher and showing them to students. The incidents, according to arrest records, occurred between March 2016 and June 2017.
Jevon Elmore, who served as a paraprofessional at the middle school, also is charged with sexual assault, which police say occurred at the city's high school. A judge on Thursday ordered the files in his case to remain sealed until his next court appearance on Sept. 11, eight days after the school year begins.
"There is a lot to say, but it's going to have to wait," said William Koch, Elmore's attorney.
Melissa Rodriguez, a former teacher at the middle school, has been charged with failing to report an incident. She has pleaded not guilty. The files in her case also have been sealed.
Messages seeking comment from Gaskin and Rodriguez's attorneys were not returned. Gaskin, who was hired at the school in 2014 despite a criminal record that includes federal drug conviction, is being held in lieu of $500,000 bond and is due back in court on Sept. 12.
Police have said the investigation is ongoing and more arrests are possible.
Four staff members at the school have been placed on administrative leave and the former principal of the school, Alison Burdick, is suing, alleging she was placed on leave for providing information to police that the district claims compromised student confidentially. Burdick is now the director of adult education for the school district.
The Day of New London has reported Burdick also is in a relationship with the city's police chief, leading to questions of a conflict of interest in the department's investigation. The department has said Chief Peter Reichard removed himself from the investigation at its outset.
"It's hard to imagine out-of-district parents choosing to send their kids to the New London magnet school system until this is resolved and everyone involved is held accountable," said Gordon Videll, an attorney representing one of the child victims, who was in seventh and eighth grade when they were assaulted.
Police allege Gaskin sexually assaulted the students during school hours in his office. He also is charged with recording and sharing videos of sexual encounters with at least two staff members. A 25-year-old teacher, who has not been identified, told police she had sex with Gaskin multiple times, including in a supply closet and her classroom.
New London School Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie, did not returned calls and emails seeking comment.
State Child Advocate Sarah Eagan said her office is also "fully engaged" in an investigation.
"Parents should ask questions of school and district/board administrators regarding how a safe, transparent, supportive culture is being built and maintained in the school community; who they can contact if they have any concerns about school climate or staff-student interactions, or who their child can contact in the school or at central office if they have concerns they want to discuss," Eagan said in an email.
The Mayor of New London, Michael Passero, released a statement following Gakin's arrest in May, saying the city has taken "aggressive measures to ensure the protection of the children in our schools."
"This situation should not diminish the reputation of our dedicated administrators, staff and teachers," Passero said.
But attorney Christine Synodi, Videll's wife and law partner, said that is a lot to ask of the community.
"Given the multiple failures, until there is complete transparency and a full and fair completed investigation, it would be hard to expect parents to have full confidence," she said.
This story has been corrected to show Elmore's attorney responded to message, said he would wait before commenting.