The conviction of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of felony child sex abuse and the charges that Penn State officials failed to report suspected abuse is a reminder of the failure of the New Rochelle Board of Education with their own "Jerry Sandusky" case.
Shortly after the arrest of Jose Martinez, current Board President Chrisanne Petrone promised a thorough independent, internal investigation to better understand who knew what and when along with a public report on the results of that investigation. That investigation has never taken place and no results of any Board of Education investigation has ever been made public.
The only public statements by the New Rochelle Board of Education since the period shortly after his arrest and subsequent conviction on felony child abuse charges has been to read aloud a letter criticizing Talk of the Sound and its publisher for continuing to raise these and other issues regarding sexual misconduct by district employees. Since that time there have been three additional cases made public -- Anthony Newman sexually assaulting a school district employee at City Hall, Patrick Clark soliciting sex from an undercover DA investigator posing as a 15-year old girl and Marissa Anton soliciting sex from a student at New Rochelle High School. Clark and Anton have both been arrested and are currently awaiting trial.
In the Sandusky case, the Penn State Board of Trustees removed senior leadership at the university and department level, hired ex-FBI director Louis Freeh to conduct an internal investigation and pledged a "steadfast commitment to pursuing the truth" and to making its campus safe for children. Freeh has reportedly interviewed over 400 people and is expected to release a report in August.
The entire leadership at Penn State was removed. Penn State's legendary head football coach, Joe Paterno, was fired (he died in January), Penn State President Graham Spanier was forced out, Athletic Director Tim Curley was put on leave and Vice President Gary retired. Curley and Schultz are current awaiting trial on charges related to covering up incidents involving Sandusky that formed part of the basis for the charges for which Sandusky was convicted last night and lying about that to state prosecutors.
In the Martinez case, by contrast, the New Rochelle Board of Education has not removed anyone at any level, they have refused to conduct a long-promised internal investigation and have not demonstrated any commitment to pursuing the truth regarding the Martinez case nor taken steps to make the school district safe for children. No one has been interviewed and there has been no report made public.
Penn State announced last night, after the Sandusky conviction, that they intend to invite Sandusky's victims to meet with school officials to address their concerns and compensate them for claims against the school. In New Rochelle, no substantive effort was made to identify additional victims, meet with the victim who did come forward or take steps to voluntarily and proactively compensate the victim.
Martinez was never disciplined by the district. He resigned days before his arrest and this resignation was accepted by the board without comment after Martinez was arrested and locked up in Westchester County Jail awaiting trial. Martinez was later released as part of a plea deal in which he admitted to repeatedly raping a student in his office at Isaac E. Young Middle School over a period of months. He is now a registered sex offender, on probation for 10 years.
Talk of the Sound has been reporting for years about the many failures of the New Rochelle Board of Education to comply with the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) law. From the routine failure to run background checks, to the failure to develop, implement and follow School Safety Plans, to reporting Child Abuse to police and Child Protective Services, to accurately reporting incidents of school violence and crime in Violence and Disruptive Incidents Reports.
We have reported on unauthorized persons gaining access to school buildings and hiding in classroom closets (and school officials lying about the incident to parents), staff-on-staff sex assaults and sexual harassment cases, persons hired to work for the district with felony drug convictions, unsafe school conditions, child rape, solicitation of sex with minors, resolutions waiving required background checks, fraudulent pension waivers, the drunk driving conviction of the head of transportation, misappropriation of school property, time-theft and no-show jobs, flagrant and numerous violations of state civil service laws, physical assaults and robberies at the high school, administrators working without licenses, employees having sex with students and much more.
At every turn the district has attempted to dismiss or minimize these concerns, ignoring them or calling them "isolated incidents". Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak has even coined the phrase "Consider the Source" as a catch-all response to any report of criminal wrong-doing or malfeasance published on Talk of the Sound.
With the support of board members, some with ties to the real estate industry in New Rochelle, the administration has sought to cover up or punt on issues of what ought to be a major concern to parents, children and their own employees. The coverups are often justified on the grounds of preserving the reputation of the school and maintaining real estate values, especially in New Rochelle's tony North End.
Nowhere is this failure of leadership more pronounced than in the Jose Martinez case. Talk of the Sound has published information indicating that at least six senior school officials were aware of complaints about Jose Martinez, any one of which was grounds for a mandatory report to Child Protective Services. These six people include building leaders, a school board member and senior administrators at the Central Office.
Cases like Penn State, the Catholic Church scandals and many others show a consistent pattern -- people within these organizations knew about the sex abuse and failed to act in order to protect the reputation of the institution or protect themselves and their colleagues.
The Horace Mann case is instructive:
The school's response, meanwhile, has been interesting. Educators, like police officers, child welfare workers and medical professionals, are mandated reporters, which means they are required by law to report any instances of physical or sexual abuse. If they don't, they can be prosecuted. No doubt there must have been complaints over the years, and yet, according to the article, the school never contacted the police. Not even once.
The reason for having an independent, unfettered investigation in New Rochelle are obvious. If it were determined that building leaders, board members, and administrators -- not to mention teachers, nurses, security guards and other district employees -- suspected child abuse and failed to make a report to Child Protective Services they could be charged criminally under the New York State Mandated Reporter Law.
It is axiomatic that you cannot have people running an investigation who could face criminal charges as a result of that investigation.
What do you think?
Should there be an independent internal investigation of the Martinez case authorized by the New Rochelle Board of Education or should the board giving everyone a pass and let sleeping dogs lie?
Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.