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'We're not getting this right': IPS school board president reacts to another abuse reporting delay

Mary Ann Sullivan plans to hold people accountable
Posted: 4:03 PM, Nov 14, 2016
Updated: 2016-11-14 18:45:38-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Public Schools school board president is “extremely frustrated” following yet another delay in staff reporting suspected child abuse.

“Absolutely nothing is more important than the safety and security of children, and if we can’t get that right, that’s a problem,” said IPS board president Mary Ann Sullivan on Monday. “The board takes the responsibility for getting that right.”

IPS is disciplining five employees following allegations of a Longfellow alternative school teacher looking at pornography in the classroom and a three-day delay in reporting those allegations to the proper authorities.

RELATED IPS employees again accused of waiting to report allegations, this time of teacher watching porn

“I think there’s long time practices and assumptions that we are trying to overcome and we have to keep working on it until we get that right,” said Sullivan. “It’s very clear that we need to hold people accountable.”

The five employees are out of the classroom while the investigating is being completed, according to IPS spokesperson Kristin Cutler.

A statement released to Call 6 Investigates said Longfellow staff members were made aware of the suspected inappropriate conduct on November 7 and waited to file a report with police and child protective services until November 10.

Indiana law says you have to immediately report suspected child abuse or neglect to police or the Indiana Department of Child Services.

This is not the first time Longfellow Alternative School has faced a controversy involving a teacher and alleged inappropriate acts with students.

Former Longfellow teacher Shana Taylor is accused of having sex with students while working as a counselor for the district.

She was fired and criminally charged, and multiple other IPS employees have been fired or resigned over the scandal for failing to report the child abuse allegations to police or the Indiana Department of Child Services in a timely manner.

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In response, IPS boosted training and developed a chain of command type checklist aimed at eliminating confusion:

Call 6 Investigates Kara Kenney asked Sullivan Monday how it’s possible another reporting delay could happen despite increased and improved training and a new checklist.

“I would say that’s the big question the board would like to know as well,” said Sullivan. “Expect to see us press the administration for additional work in this area, because we need it.”

Sullivan said they will revisit the strategies and make sure all employees are aware of their obligations under state law and district policy.

“We’re not getting this right, and we need to get it right, and we’re going to keep working until we do,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan said as part of training, employees are told that IPS would rather see ten employees report the same thing versus no one report suspected abuse.

“Their role is to report, report, report, report,” said Sullivan. “This should not be an obligation our staff feel they have to take on, because there are professionals who will do it.”

IPS officials released this statement to RTV6:

"On November 7, 2016, Longfellow staff members were made aware of an allegation of the suspected inappropriate conduct of an employee. The school filed a report with Child Protective Services and law enforcement on November 10, 2016. Five employees have entered our internal disciplinary process related to this incident pending further information. Longfellow school leaders completed annual training on IPS administrative guidelines for reporting requirements earlier this school year. Any investigation into the initial allegation will be handled by law enforcement.”

Indianapolis Public Schools police officers were called to Henry W. Longfellow Middle School around 10:30 a.m. Thursday after a student reported to the vice principal that her teacher was looking at porn on his computer.

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Police say the student said they were making fun of the teacher because he was looking at pornographic images and websites on his computer. Another student was seen taking photos of the teacher and posting them on social media.

Police confiscated the teacher’s computers. He was sent to the Indianapolis Public Schools Human Resources Division for a follow-up investigation.

The situation remains under investigation by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Indianapolis Public Schools Human Resources Division.

An IPS policy titled “Procedures for Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect” says all school personnel have a duty to report child abuse allegations to Child Protective Services, and school staff should immediately call the state hotline at 1-800-800-5556.

The policy also states if an employee can’t figure out what to do, they should call the Title IX coordinator or the assistant superintendent for human resources.

The board is expected to meet in executive session Monday to discuss the latest Longfellow incident and how staff handled it.

They have not yet released the names of the employees who are being disciplined.