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New Rochelle Security Guard Implicated in "Sexting" at Albert Leonard, Took Teen's Phone, Distributed Images

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New Rochelle Security Guard Implicated in "Sexting" at Albert Leonard, Took Teen's Phone, Distributed Images

May 11, 2009 - 20:02
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60EC9EDC-0713-4448-AA81-FA08CB9B1618.jpgTalk of the Sound has learned that parents of a middle school student in New Rochelle, NY have pulled their child out of the school district and relocated in the wake of a "sexting" incident at Albert Leonard Middle School. "Sexting involved students taking nude or semi-nude photos of themselves and sharing them with their friends.

What makes this case unusual is the large number of adults involved in the case. The incident focuses on a security guard with a past history of disciplinary problems. Also implicated are other district employees at Albert Leonard Middle School and Isaac E. Young Middle School. The New Rochelle School Board and Office of the Superintendent have known of the issue for months yet the guard is still employed by the District. Talk of the Sound has also learned that the New Rochelle Police Department was notified of the incident. TOS has filed a public records request seeking all documents related to the case.

Back in February, Albert Leonard Middle School Principal Evans sent home a letter to parents urging parents to have a discussion with their children about the dangers of sexting without disclosing the incidnet. Asked whether he had deceived parents in sending home such a letter without clearly stating that there had been a sexting issue at the school, Evans declined to comment and referred all questions to Superintendent Richard Organisciak. Calls and emails to Mr. Organisciak were not returned.

The guard continues to be employed by the District. Although she has been reassigned to a position outside of any public school building the guard continues to deal with the public and does come in close contact with children in her current post. Talk of the Sound has the identity of the board but is withholding the name pending a public records request.

This is the third serious incident involving New Rochelle security guards in the past year who many experts feel are inadequately trained and supervised. Each of those guards has been reassigned to another building and none has been fired.

The sexting incident at Albert Leonard began when the security guard is alleged to have taken a cell phone from a student which contained sexual images of children, copied the sexual images of children onto other electronic devices, and transmitted sexual images of children using the Internet. Sources tell Talk of the Sound that after taking the phone from the child, the guard did not turn the cell phone over to her superior within the chain of command but instead kept the phone and later made copies of the images which she then showed to other district employees and transmitted over the Internet, including to one district employee at Isaac E. Young Middle School. The incident came to light when one of the people shown the sexual images of children reported her to Albert Leonard Principal Bill Evans. Sources tell Talk of the Sound, the guard has a past history of disciplinary problems.

Senior administration officials throughout the District and members of the school board were made aware of the incident and have since sought to keep the incident quiet. Some school board members sought to have the guard fired but she was observed at her new post today and is, by all accounts, still on the payroll.

There are extremely serious allegations against school officials because most of them, if not all, are "mandated reporters" who by law have to report any incidents where the welfare of a child is in danger.

Talk of the Sound has been inquiring about "sexting" in New Rochelle schools since January 27, 2009 when Christine Coleman, IT Director for the New Rochelle School District, made a presentation at Jefferson School. Coleman was scheduled to speak on the topic of the district's "Acceptable Use Policy for Technology & Internet Safety Policy" but soon digressed into an extended discussion on the dangers of "sexting". Coleman described this as a problem that has been occurring at other schools across the country where students take naked photos of themselves or their friends and email them or text them to other students. Coleman stated that there had been no incidents of sexting in New Rochelle. Sources tell Talk of the Sound the incident at Albert Leonard was not the first sexting incident in the New Rochelle schools.

At the same meeting, I addressed the board and Christine Coleman, supporting what she had recommended with regard to Internet safety and offering to publish a copy of her presentation on Talk of the Sound to help spread the message. She ignored me at the meeting and later refused repeated requests for a copy of her presentation. I then submitted a Freedom of Information request for the presentation but the District denied my request on the grounds that Coleman had researched the presentation on her home computer, on her own time and so the presentation she made to the school board at a public meeting was not a public record. Coleman's repeated refusal to provide information on a topic she was attempting to raise awareness of in the community struck me as odd; that the District would make a bogus denial of my request of public records even more odd.

A short time later a notice was sent home to parents of students at Albert Leonard Middle School warning of the dangers of sexting. In the context of this newly public information about a "sexting" incident at Albert Leonard, the words of Principal Bill Evans take on new meaning.

"I am writing this letter to bring your attention to some recent situations that have come up across the country involving cell phone safety. Since we know that New Rochelle and Albert Leonard Middle School are not isolated from these issues, I thought it was important to send this letter".

As it typical of the District, this letter is carefully parsed to deceive parents while providing the district legal cover. They can use this letter to claim they did tell parents. How? Evans's words seek to convey that sexting is something that happens elsewhere but that he is being prudent by alerting parents before something happens. The second line of the letter is meant to sound like he is in solidarity with parents who know this has not happened but the best way to make sure it does not happen is to be vigilant. In light today's report, the sentence can also mean "we the people running the school district" know for a fact sexting is not isolated from New Rochelle because Albert Leonard has had an incident.

Read the entire letter here (click to enlarge):

sexting alms letter.jpg

A few weeks after the letter was sent home, Talk of the Sound learned about drug dealing at Albert Leonard Middle School. As a parent with a child at Albert Leonard, I recall thinking that the District is warning parents about a problem that does not exist in the schools -- sexting -- but not warning parents about a problem that does exist -- the kids selling and possessing marijuana. Now I have a very different take.

About this time we first heard vague reports from members of law enforcement that there has been a sexting incident in the schools. As the information was not specific and given to us on background there was no story we could publish.

Last night, an anonymous commenter posted to this site with a description of the entire event. Our sources within the district confirmed this account was entirely correct:

A few months ago a security guard in A.L.M.S. took a cell phone from a student that was showing nake picutres of his girl friend to other people in the school. The Guard did not notify her supervisor or anyone else. A few days later returns the phone back to the student. The guard transferred the naked pictures on to her phone and the guard was showing her friendsthe naked picture when someone reported the guard to the school district. As usual they swept it under the rug. They transfer the guard to [------ redacted -------] and is still there. Now I might not be the sharpest pencil in the box but is this not child pornography?

At this point, with multiple sources confirming various aspects of the story we decided to drop the story today. We have sought comments from school officials and the New Rochelle Police Department without a response. We have a great deal more information including the name of the security guard which we will publish as we are able to confirm this information from multiple, independent sources. Given the extremely serious nature of the allegations, we want to tread carefully.

Developing...

Additional Reports:

New Rochelle Police Destroy Records in Child Pornography Case at Albert Leonard Middle School

Security Guard at Heart of New Rochelle Sexting Incident Identified; Polow Knew

There are 10 Comments

the unwillingness to yield to a request for a prepared document authorized and used by a member of the school district in a public forum is in the public domain and accessible by request per both state and federal law. preparing it at home is a nonsensical argument; the document is school property regardless if it was prepared at Starbucks on a PC during lunch if used for non-private purposes as you have cited.

a simple call to NYS Freedom of Information folks or the Department of Education will clear this up pronto. You can go directly to Ms. Tisch on this one but make sure your facts are straight. I would prepare a letter addressed to Ms Tisch and the appropriate NYS FOIL individual with cc: to Organisciak, Coleman and the Chairwoman of the Board and indicate that you intend to send to out 2 or 3 business days after receipt by district unless you receive an affirmative response

Robert Cox's picture

Warren,

The New York State Committee on Open Government is fully aware that the District has been failing during over public records in dozens of FOIL requests over a period of 6 months. I can explain the full process elsewhere but the District has violated every step in the process many, many times. The District finally agreed to turn over SOME of the public records I requested but is improperly seeking to charge me hundreds of dollars for records they are required to turn over at no charge. The Committee on Open Government does not have enforcement powers; it is up to a filer to bring a complaint.

Not to worry, I have an attorney working on the matter and look forward to giving the District and their so-called "lawyers" a good thrashing in court. Unfortunately, we all pay their legal fees and you will also being pay my legal fees, if a judge sees fit to award me attorney fees as I hope will be the case.

You might want to know that the District has spent somewhere around $250,000 in their various legal maneuvers. They have lost every time and I have absolutely no doubt they will lose again in each of the FOIL complaints I will be filing in the coming months.

Once we get going I expect we will also be moving on the issue of the routine violations of open meeting laws -- the board meets in executive session constantly and regularly uses these meetings to discuss public business behind closed doors. These people are so dumb that I even have video of Organisciak to prove the point. More on that later. Still working on the sexting story -- more coming on that.

My congratulations to Mr. Evans and for those members of the boards who see not only the inappropriateness of what apparently has transpired but gauge the risk of some internet predator getting possession of such material and creating a tragedy that is easily avoidable. Even if this is a bit dire, the refusal to act and the absolute wrongheadnedness of citing "private use of a public domain document" as indicated in a prior blog is inexcusable. I would literally hope and pray that those members of the school board who are exercising proper and prudent judgment rise up, identify themselves and sweep the disrict clean of this excrement. It surely would be worth their while given the support they would get from cynics like yours truly. How can you put kids who are simply not assessing the risks and consequences of these kinds of action at risk. Ms. Coleman needs to go and be part of a selective exodus of incompetent district staff.'
The ALMS principal wrote a fine letter with appropriate compassion and critical thinking. Why not invest the district management in his hands?

warren gross

Robert Cox's picture

Warren,

Your heart is in the right place but your sentiments about Bill Evans are off base. Read the post again. The letter was sent WITHOUT informing parents of what had transpired at the school. It was a typical CYA letter sent by the District in the event this matter became public. As far as I can see the entire District and board has gone to great lengths to cover this up. I have asked NRPD for comment as to whether the woman was arrested without a reply. I have FOIL'd for any incident reports or arrest records and am still waiting for those if they exist.

I also think you not understanding what happened. The security guard is alleged to set of a chain reaction where the sexual image of a child was widely disseminated among district employees and God knows where else.

Any person who received that image and then forwarded the image to someone else is going to be under consideration for possession of child pornography, distribution of child pornography and endangering the welfare of a child. One count for each time the email was sent. It could be many hundreds of counts.

Now, perhaps you want to re-think your defense of ANYONE from the District that knew about this and failed to inform parents or the public.

This is a disturbing story if it is accurate & it should raise A LOT of questions in all New Rochelle residents minds, especially if you have children in any of the public schools. The most obvious one would be, why the security guard didn't report this to anyone. Do these "guards" receive any formal training? Another question would be why Ms. Coleman, would refuse to release her "study of sexting" to TOS, for publication. I realize that she is in the IT department, but I would like to think that EVERY EMPLOYEE of the district would have the best interests of our students in mind. I bet if she has children, she wouldn't want it happening in their schools. I suspect that most of the research was done "on the clock" & the "research at home" was just an excuse to keep the presentation from TOS. Robert, maybe you should FOIL Ms. Colemans internet activity "on the clock" to see just how much research was done "at home, on her own time".

Also, is there an active criminal investigation by the NRPD or the WCDA? I've seen articles in the Journal News where they go after stores that sell cigarettes & alcohol to kids. Wouldn't accusations like this at least warrant an investigation? I hope there is a logical & reasonable explanation for all of this.

It seems like there are dirty little secrets all over City Hall from the City administration, to the DPW yard, to the Board of education. Keep up the good work Robert, word on the street, is that you defenitly have their attention!!!!

Virtually EVERY employee is mandated by the state to report such incidents. Failure to do so is a CRIME. Read the post "When does the taxpayer abuses end in New Rochelle" on this site. Anybody who had knowledge of this , and did not report it to the authorities commited a crime. In fact, if a teacher suspects some sort of abuse, they are under no obligation to go to their superior first. It is their job to report to DCS and DCS will generate a case number and investigate if a crime was committed. By no means is it the job or responsibility of any school authority to make the judgement if a crime was committed. If a supervisor gets a report of suspected improper activity, and decides hold back reporting it to the authorities until they make a determination, that is failure to report (a crime) and possibly obstruction of justice depending on the severity. Can I be any more clear on this matter?

I thought the school system had a responsiblity to protect our children, when they attend school each day? This is truly a shame.

Bob glad to hear you have an attorney on the case. Don't think you are completely right on the principal issue. I too have a source and I understand that he was placed under considerable pressure not to report publically what he knew or felt. It is not my heart being in the right place as much as my sadness that the situation has arisen, a seemingly decent man alerted the system, and probably was blocked. Same holds for my comments re: the rare board member who may have felt properly incensed.Bob, please please don't presume that I don't see the seriousness of this issue; my words point that out quite adequately. I understand it as well as you but our point of departure is that you assert and maybe so, that Evans did not have the full intention of acting on this issue. I think he may well have. Also, I spent a lot of time at Isaac and other parts of the district --- I know the sacred and the profane of it all. Lets stop quibbling about what is understood and step back and respect or at least give the benefit of the doubt.It is a terrible issue as you have reported it, it could have heartbreaking ramifications on the children involved, and frankly it belongs in the DA's purview if it is so. Why wouldn't Evans want this to go out? Of course he would -- maybe you can take sworn testimony from Korsakoff, Organisciak, and Babcock Deutsch to see what role they played and whether they instructed Evans to sit on this. Surely a sitting principal in a school district knows better to say much more than his draft letter indicates. It is called job security. You presume too much about my knowledge and feelings, but hell, you are doing a great job for the citizen so keep going. It is particular sad to hear about Wagner. That is harsh news as the man had the goods. If you read the Journal News endorsement today you would see that they are like most people in a protective society -- full of pride as they discount factual data on performance and endorse who they interview. Hastie might be a good guy, but he is a PTA guy and as for the incumbent........ there is nothing to recommend. warren gross

Robert Cox's picture

Warren,

As a scholar who cites Diogenes in his posts, let me answer you with Edmund Burke as cited in an article by Martin Porter:

"Perpetrators, collaborators, bystanders, victims: we can be clear about three of these categories. The bystander, however, is the fulcrum. If there are enough notable exceptions, then protest reaches a critical mass. We don’t usually think of history as being shaped by silence, but, as English philosopher Edmund Burke said, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’"

That Bill Evans is a good man is the entire point.

That this web site turns bystanders into notable exceptions is what frightens the people who are running the New Rochelle School District. They are extremely good at playing the game to either corrupt souls or induce acquiescence or simply silence the many good, honest, decent people who work for the school district.

But this is not a game. They are playing with people's lives, their livelihoods, their careers not to mention the future of our children and many millions of the people's money.

In their desperate desire to maintain control these people have lost their moral compass -- if they ever had one -- living in a world of moral relativism where the ends justify the means and the ends are all the same-to keep power.

I for one refuse to remain silent.

I am glad to have those of you who have stepped forward by my side and contribute your voices to this site. To the rest of you, standing there on the sidelines, I say "Join us" and together will give these people the comeuppance that has been for so long their due.

We can start by bullet voting Vincent Malfetano, tossing out Deidre Polow and crushing this budget and then crushing it again so control of District Finances passes out of their hands just long enough that maybe we can have a chance at honest administration of the school district.

Join us.

Safety of children is FIRST priority. PERIOD. There should never be a reason to have to hear the words 'past history of disciplinary problems' EVER! If there was a problem with discipline in the past, the employee must NOT be given ANY chance to repeat 'history'. There is no room for error.

In addition, proper screening and monitoring must be enforced continuously and consistently to ensure that the possibility of ANY safety problem arising is avoided. These are individuals who are responsible for the safety of many, many people, not just vulnerable children. They are the FIRST people that everyone comes into contact with upon entering school buildings and properties. They MUST be well-trained and able to think on their feet, AND if it's not too much to ask, helpful. How can parents send their children to school when they are worried about their safety? Are employees comfortable with the security provided to them throughout their work day as teachers and staff? If a situation were to arise, are we confident enough in the abilities of our school's security guards? I'd like to be reassured.

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