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IPS waited 6 days to report alleged abuse to DCS

Posted: 2:01 PM, Mar 02, 2016
Updated: 2016-03-02 19:04:45-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Public Schools may have violated state law requiring suspected child abuse and neglect be reported immediately.

Court records released Wednesday show Longfellow Alternative School officials were made aware of sexual abuse allegations against counselor Shana Taylor on Feb.17 when a parent came to the school and disclosed she had viewed numerous text and Facebook messages between her son and Taylor.

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Court records show Mr. William Jensen, assistant principal, learned of the alleged sexual relationship on Feb. 17.

Jensen then made contact with numerous other school officials, including the director of student services and the director of human resources for the district, and forwarded all of the messages to human resources, court records say.

However, the Indiana Department of Child Services was not notified about the allegations until six days later on Feb. 23, according to James Wide, spokesperson for DCS.

Indiana Code 31-33-5-4 requires schools to orally report “immediately” to the Indiana Department of Child Services or local law enforcement.

According to court documents, Indianapolis Metro Police received a report about inappropriate sexual relationships involving Taylor on February 23 from DCS.

Tuesday, IPS spokesperson Kristin Cutler released a statement to RTV6.

“IPS was informed of alleged inappropriate contact between the employee and a student on the evening of Wednesday, February 17. The district subsequently directed the employee to report to IPS Human Resource Services (HRS) on the morning of Thursday, February 18. The employee was placed on suspension, including being banned from any IPS school property.”

IPS has declined requests to interview an official on camera about Taylor and the reporting timeline.

“Dr. Ferebee plans to speak about this situation with the media, but it won’t happen today,” a statement issued Wednesday said. “I’ll let you know as soon as I have a timeline on that item.”

Kenney also reached out to IPS Board of School Commissioners who all declined to comment.

“This is a personnel issue, and it is our board's policy not to comment,” IPS board president Mary Ann Sullivan said. 

It’s not yet clear if school officials could face criminal charges related to the six day delay in reporting to DCS.

In 2014, the Indiana Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of a former Muncie Central High School principal who failed to report the rape of a student in a timely manner.

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In November 2010, a 16-year-old female student told then-Principal Christopher Smith and school staff that a classmate had raped her in a school bathroom.

Rather than reporting the rape immediately, police said that Smith and other staff made the victim sit in the principal's office for hours and write a report about the incident while the suspect was allowed to leave the school.

Sandy Runkle of Prevent Child Abuse Indiana released the following statement about the incident: 

“As you know, we can’t comment on the specific situation, but what I would stress is that Indiana law requires that ANYONE who has reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect, MUST make a report. Anonymous reports are accepted. No one has to prove that something has happened, or know that something has happened; it is “reason to believe." A report should be made as soon as that criteria has been met; there really is no reason to wait. If, during the call, DCS needs additional information, they will ask for it. We also want to reiterate that even though those who work or have contact with children will probably be held to a higher standard, Indiana law requires everyone to report. Everyone in Indiana is a mandated reporter.  The other piece to remember is even if you have what is called a “designated reporter," you are still responsible for making, or insuring, that the report is made. Simply informing your “designated reporter” does not absolve you from your responsibility for that report.”

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