Tag Archives: Child Abuse

There are 5 forms of Child Abuse: Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Family Violence, and Sexual Abuse.

WHEN RACE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE SAFETY OF SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN

The Great Divide
9 takeaways from Boston’s investigation into Mission Hill School; DA reviewing

SUFFOLK COUNTY, MA  –  A blistering investigation released this week revealed institutional failures that endangered children for years at Boston’s Mission Hill K-8 School, including overlooked reports of sexual abuse and bullying.

Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden on Thursday said his office is reviewing the report for “any crimes or incidents where mandatory reporting of sexual assault allegations did or did not occur.”

The report spurred Superintendent Brenda Cassellius to take the extraordinary step of recommending the school’s closure at the end of the academic year in June.  The Boston School Committee will vote on the closure May 5.

“This is the stuff of nightmares,” Mayor Michelle Wu said Thursday on GBH News, pledging accountability in BPS.

Many parents have continued to defend the school.

Here are nine key takeaways from the report:

1.  The school ‘systematically failed to protect students’ from sexual abuse, investigators found

The 189-page report by the law firm Hinckley Allen was sparked by complaints from parents that Mission Hill officials were ignoring their concerns about bullying, and separately, allegations by five families that one student had repeatedly sexually abused their children.

Investigators found the school “systematically failed to protect students” from sexual abuse by neglecting to document, investigate, or address allegations.  The school’s lacking response to sexual abuse allegations went far beyond a case in which BPS in August agreed to pay a $650,000 settlement to five Mission Hill families who said their six young children were repeatedly sexually abused by the same student and administrators failed to adequately act.

Investigators blamed much of the school’s problems on a former administrator they labeled “MH Admin 3.”  That administrator’s tenure coincided with Ayla Gavins, who served as principal for 12 years until summer 2019.  She did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The report details witnesses’ accounts of the principal’s response to the case of the student identified in court records as “A.J.,” who was accused in the families’ lawsuit of inappropriately touching fellow students and digitally penetrating one from 2014 to 2016.  Gavins told parents who complained they should “pull their kids out” and that A.J. “had a right to be” there, the report says.  A staffer recalled employees also voiced concerns that the student would be criminalized because he was Black, the report says.

The investigation found Mission Hill failed to complete official incident reports for at least 20 incidents of sexual misconduct allegations against A.J. and at least another 40 incidents of sexually inappropriate behaviors involving the school’s other students from 2013 to 2021.

The report says the failure to document sexual conduct was “an intentional by-product” of Gavins’s efforts to protect students of color.

2.  A ‘persistent and well-documented bullying problem’

Investigators concluded Mission Hill had a “persistent and well-documented bullying problem” that ballooned due to the school’s “hands-off attitude” which “taught students to protect themselves by being abusive.”

Mission Hill School’s failure to implement standard disciplinary procedures led to a rise in bullying that was “largely unaddressed” by Gavins, according to the report.  Investigators wrote that Gavins often paid “lip service” to handling serious bullying incidents.

Parents told investigators that Gavins avoided giving direct answers to safety questions and accused white parents of being racist or hostile when they advocated for their child’s safety.

3.  Special education failures

The school also failed to properly provide special education services due to its philosophy that “each child is special and learns at their own pace,” investigators found, leading to students’ learning challenges going unaddressed.

The report found that students with disabilities — who make up one-third of the school were likely failed in many ways, including the school’s practice of removing disruptive children for “what was effectively babysitting in another room.”

4.  BPS was aware of Mission Hill’s problems for years

Over the six years before the investigation, BPS received multiple complaints from parents and investigated several internally.  In 2015, BPS hired attorney Joseph Coffey to investigate allegations.  Coffey found Gavins failed to provide specialized instruction by special education teachers, allowed improper restraints of children, created a culture of intimidation, and asked staff to “misrepresent” the school’s English as a Second Language services, the report says.

From 2014 to 2017, the report says, BPS received numerous complaints reporting sexual misconduct at the school.  Coffey’s 2015 report cited concerns by a staff member who reported incidents involving A.J. in a staff meeting and recommended the student be evaluated, but Gavins allegedly refused due to concerns about Black boys being “over diagnosed” with disabilities.

In August, a parent told Cassellius that six employees in the superintendent’s office failed to act despite knowing that the school inadequately responded to reports of abuse, assaults, and bullying.

5.  Three key e-mail accounts deleted during investigation

The report suggested some school employees put their self-interests before that of children, including by using a separate e-mail server and deleting at least three key employee e-mail accounts while the school was under investigation.

6.  Cultural problems cited

Investigators said they found a “cult-like” climate at the academically struggling school, which espoused its philosophy as the unique “Mission Hill Way,” and an intolerance of dissent that ostracized employees and parents who voiced concerns.

7.  Retaliation concerns

Parents said staffers who raised concerns were fired or pressured to leave.  Several parents told investigators that the school fired an employee because the employee filed a “51A” report to the Department of Children and Families against A.J. in November 2014, which the parents felt disobeyed Gavins’s “view of keeping matters in-house,” the report says.

Although the employee reported leaving for other reasons, the employee also described being pushed out by Gavins and enduring a “pattern of hostility by [Gavins] and long-term teachers,” the report says.

8.  Academic failings

Investigators concluded that Mission Hill failed to provide rigorous academic instruction in math, writing, literacy, and science.

The school focused on literacy for marginalized students, but often didn’t recognize that students from all backgrounds struggled, investigators wrote.

9.  Gender-nonconforming students bullied

Investigators found the school fostered a culture that “allowed increased bias and discrimination” toward transgender and gender-nonconforming students.  One parent told investigators the school “allowed a culture” where transgender students were beaten up in the bathroom.  Investigators wrote they found evidence Gavins “showed an unwillingness” to address concerns raised about these students.

The Great Divide is an investigative team that explores educational inequality in Boston and statewideSign up to receive our newsletter, and send ideas and tips to thegreatdivide@globe.com.

THE SECRET PASSWORD

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Our Children are in danger every minute of every day!

Protect Your Children From Predators:
The Secret Password –
Please Pass It Forward!

By: Kait King

I am very proud to introduce Ms Kait King, a True Writer Extraordinaire.

I don’t mind telling everyone that I have been Blessed every way possible, since starting that little one page gift to Google+ and all it’s users very near 8 years ago, and Ms Kate King is one of those Blessings, a very Large Blessing to be exact.

Unlike all the times I have shared this, apparently the whole original story is no longer available on Ms King’s site, The Writer’s Blogk, but please go there and read Ms King’s work!  THANK YOU SO MUCH Ms Kait King!

I met Ms King shortly after I opened our website.  I can tell you what I remember from back then: Ms King was a very good writer, and well educated.  But I was glad that I wasn’t standing in front of her, because I was humbled to tears.  This very special Lady was as good a Parent and Mother, as any that has ever walked this earth…  and I stand by my words today.  There was only one thing that struck me as odd, she was working on a project with the name of “The 3 Pigs”.

Thank You all for reading, and when you are finished reading this unforgetable story, please do as Ms King wishes: Please Pass It On!
Robert StrongBow

A copy of a letter I sent to all of the primary schools to save children – simple and super effective!  Please pass it on

My son is 29 years old now and it has always amazed me at how many parents through those many years, and even now, who have no idea about the concept of the Secret Password.

I used to work as a National Intelligence Support Officer for the police.  I have had projects that have highlighted the danger our children are in while getting to and from school and this is an issue which is not going to go away.  I have a simple solution that may help to keep children safer than they are now.

My son was five and starting school, and with my background and experience I was very aware of the dangers of kerb crawlers and people who would snatch kids from off the street.  So I devised this password plan, my son picked the word – at the time he believed he was allergic to zucchinis’ as he detested them so much so that became our Secret Password.

This password meant that if I was unable to pick him up from school and had to send someone whom he was not familiar with, or a stranger altogether even, if they knew that Secret Password it was ok to get in the car and go with them.  If the person did not know the Secret Password my son was to drop his school backpack and run like the devil was after him, (which would be the case), straight back into the school grounds and to the principal’s office.

He only had to use this once, and because he did run, he is still here and I am not writing this letter to you out of a sad and broken story where the solution is all but too late.

But I write this out of a realisation that something so very simple could help to protect children, our children, for they are all of our children and we all need to be responsible for helping to keep them safe.  I hope you find some benefit in this little gem and hand it out to all parents and caregivers and tell all that you can please, so that this safety net is in place.  I thank you for your time to read this and thank you also, for teaching our children and caring for them.

With the most sincerest intent and with regards
Kait King, BA Crim.

Discovery Of Falsified Reports Alarmed CO State Officials

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Stop CPS Corruption and Anti-Family Agenda.

Moffat County caseworker accused of fabricating child abuse, neglect investigations has been charged with forgery

A Moffat County caseworker accused of fabricating reports to make it seem as if she checked on children who were the subject of abuse and neglect claims is now facing charges of forgery and abuse of public records.

Hester Renee Nelms, 43, was under investigation for more than a year by the district attorney’s office in Moffat County, where a crew of 15 caseworkers from across Colorado set up operations in 2020 to re-investigate more than 80 reports of child abuse and neglect.  Numerous families, including some who spoke to The Colorado Sun, said that no caseworker ever came to check on their children — despite detailed reports in the state’s child welfare database that those visits had occurred.

An arrest warrant in the case, released this week after a request from The Sun, describes how Nelms’ notes regarding several children were made up and inaccurate.  Investigators discovered that in multiple cases, she had never visited homes or interviewed kids and parents, despite writing in detail about the contents of their bedrooms or family members’ jobs and medical conditions.

Investigators found at least 50 cases containing falsified details, including many in which Nelms never made contact with the children or parents.  They included entries into the state child welfare database about people that do not exist, and false documentation regarding the “death of parents, false medical issues, fictitious supports and/or employment,” according to the arrest warrant.

In one 2019 case, Nelms wrote that a mother had cervical cancer and wanted to spend as much time as she could with her four children, including a 5-month-old baby.  Her report described a house fire the family had endured and said the mother was in nursing school. Neither detail was true, nor did the mother ever have cancer, investigators found.  Also, there was no baby in the family.

In another case, Nelms wrote that the mother of the child who was the subject of a sexual abuse report worked as a cook and that her daughter had a boyfriend.  But in reality, the daughter is gay and the mother worked at an auto lube shop, according to the investigator.

No children were found to have been injured or killed because of the shoddy casework, according to records previously released by the state to The Sun under open records laws.

State child welfare officials in 2019 notified Moffat County’s child welfare division that it was behind on meeting requirements for abuse and neglect assessments, which counties are supposed to complete within 60 days.  The county hired a former child protection caseworker to perform an audit, which found that of the 120 abuse and neglect cases that were open, 90% of them were assigned to Nelms, according to the arrest warrant.

Annette Norton, then the head of Moffat County Department of Human Services, allowed Nelms to focus solely on closing the 120 cases.  Yet, after a month, Nelms had finished work on just 13 of the open cases, so Norton fired her, according to court documents.

The caseworker who took on Nelms’ workload soon discovered inaccuracies — and complete untruths — in the reports.  In the first case the new caseworker looked into, in which a little girl’s bedroom decor was described in Nelms’ report, the worker, Markie Green, found that Nelms had never actually been to the child’s home.

“The mother looks at Ms. Green and asked her what contact and by what caseworker,” the investigator wrote. “The mother explained there was no contact and no interview.”
The auditor then pulled more of Nelms’ case files, choosing at random, and she and Green made similar discoveries.  This led to intervention by the state child welfare division, which rounded up 15 caseworkers from various counties to re-examine every case that Nelms worked.  The team discovered a pattern of fraudulent paperwork that stretched over two years.

Nelms did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but in an interview with the investigator, she said she was overwhelmed and overburdened with work in Moffat County and did not receive adequate training.  She quit the job once, but returned at the urging of her boss.  Nelms, who has since moved to the Denver area, said she was “getting further and further behind and the cases were piling up.”  At the time, the department was only 48% staffed.

She did not admit to fabricating documentation, but said she relied on her memory when she entered reports into the statewide database and sometimes mixed up families.  Nelms told the investigator she was working “at an extremely fast pace” and couldn’t “remember a lot of the faces of her clients because of how fast the cases were coming in.”

Nelms was charged with felony forgery and misdemeanor abuse of public records.
The Sun asked the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office about the status of its investigation into Nelms’ caseload eight times over the past year and a half.  The office’s spokeswoman, Leslie Hockaday, recently emailed a news release to The Sun, dated March 22, noting that an arrest warrant had been issued for Nelms on Nov. 29.  She has not been taken into custody.  A judge set a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.

County officials also have been quiet about the investigation that rattled many citizens and child advocates in Craig.  Norton, who abruptly left the county’s human services department at the start of the investigation, previously told The Sun the child welfare scandal was a “personnel matter” and refused to discuss it.

A statewide performance-monitoring system, which scores county child welfare divisions on how well they respond to suspected cases of abuse or neglect and whether they make face-to-face contact with suspected victims within required timeframes, alerted state officials in 2019 that Moffat County was slipping.

Around the same time, Colorado Child Protection Ombudsman Stephanie Villafuerte’s office received three separate reports from citizens in Moffat County who said local caseworkers had failed to check on children.

Danvers Leaders Targeted By AG, NAACP Report After Hockey Team Hazing

AG investigation, NAACP report target Danvers leaders in wake of hockey team controversy

DANVERS, MA  –  Danvers leaders faced new fallout Wednesday from alleged violent racist, homophobic, and antisemitic behavior by its high school boys hockey team, as the state attorney general’s office disclosed it is investigating the school system’s handling of the case and the NAACP called for changes in the Police Department over its role in the controversy.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office had previously stopped short of acknowledging it had launched an investigation, saying only that it was “looking into” the Danvers case.  But a spokesperson said Tuesday that a preliminary review has since triggered a formal investigation.

Notable among the allegations the school district withheld were statements by a member of the 2019-20 Danvers team that other players pinned him down in the locker room and beat him about the face for refusing to shout the n-word as part of one ritual and that he was touched inappropriately on the buttocks during another ritual in which players stripped naked in the dark.

Danvers School Superintendent Lisa Dana, who withheld the abuse allegations from the public with the school board’s backing, went on medical leave in December, less than eight weeks after the Globe first reported the system’s refusal to release results of its investigation.  Her duties have been handled by assistant superintendents Keith Taverna and Mary Wermers.

In a statement, Taverna and Wermers said, “Starting with the initial outreach to the school department, the district has been receptive to the review process initiated by the Attorney General’s office.  We have made ourselves available to answer all of their questions, we have provided all documentation that has been requested of us, and we are prepared to implement recommendations that may follow.”

Meanwhile, in a report issued Wednesday, the North Shore NAACP recommended that Stephen Baldassare, a police sergeant who was also head coach of the hockey team during the alleged misconduct, be reassigned from supervising the town’s school resource officers.

The group also called on the Danvers Police Department to improve its hiring and training, to commit to greater transparency, and to acknowledge that its role in the hockey case contributed to “undermining trust and causing fear and trauma” in the community.

NAACP branch president Natalie Bowers characterized the report as a “People’s Call for Accountability.”

“The community wants to finally heal from the racial trauma that has lingered for the last two years,” Bowers said.  “It seeks accountability so that it can rebuild trust in local governance. Danvers has much work to do.”

Bowers, however, stated in a letter Tuesday to the town’s Human Rights and Inclusion Committee that Police Chief James Lovell and Town Manager Steve Bartha have reviewed the report and acknowledged the NAACP’s concerns but “decided not to adopt our recommendations.”

Lovell, in a statement to the Globe, defended the integrity of the hockey investigation, denied the police made any attempt to cover up the allegations, and said the department has taken measures and committed to launching additional initiatives that address the NAACP’s concerns.

He also reflected on the lack of diversity in the Danvers Police Department.  The force, including the command staff, is composed of 39 officers: 36 white males and three white females.

“As a civil service community, Danvers is required to follow their guidelines in the selection process of police candidates,” Lovell said.  “A list of candidates is provided to us, upon request, by Civil Service, and we are required to hire from that list, which is developed using a variety of criteria, including exam scores, residency, veteran status, etc.”

He said the department uses various methods to screen candidates, including analyzing their responses to questions about racism, bias, and excessive use of force.

Lovell also pledged to promote racial sensitivity in part by assigning officers to attend a four-hour webinar produced by the Anti-Defamation League, titled “Fair, Equitable, and Objective Policing.”

As for removing Baldassare from his school-related assignment, the NAACP report says taking that action would demonstrate “the department is committed to improving its practices, including ensuring that those [officers] it places in critical roles in the schools have the training necessary to do the work appropriately and ensure the safety of the school community without multiple competing priorities and interests.”

Lovell and Bartha have rejected previous requests to reassign Baldassare, a former star athlete at Danvers High School who lives in town and has served on the police force since 1999.

Baldassare told police and school investigators he knew nothing about the alleged misconduct.  He has not publicly addressed the allegations.

The Globe’s efforts to reach Baldassare were unsuccessful.  In a letter to Lovell and Bartha in February, he said he wanted to retain his police assignment to help the community move forward.  The school district rehired him as the hockey coach despite the abuse allegations, but he resigned from the position before the 2021-22 season.

Baldassare wrote that he understands some people will never be satisfied that he was unaware of the alleged misconduct.  Throughout his career, he said, “serving, supporting, mentoring, coaching, and helping kids has been the driving motivator and passion in my professional life.”

On accepting a reassignment, Baldassare wrote, “The truth is this would be the easy thing to do, walking away from both the work I love and the challenges that lie ahead, but that isn’t me.”

Instead, he said, “I will ensure that our unit is a leading advocate and force for positive change within the community.”

Bowers said the NAACP and its allies plan to press the Danvers Human Rights and Inclusion Committee to support the report’s recommendations and the Select Board to help implement them.

TX AG Opposes Loopholes In Our Laws Sexual Predators Can Exploit To Avoid Justice

.jpg photo of TX Attorney General LogoAG Paxton Sends Letter to ALI Opposing Revisions that Benefit Sexual Predators

AUSTIN, TX  –  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined a multistate letter to the American Law Institute (ALI) objecting that their proposed amendments to the Model Penal Code (MPC) would weaken laws used to prosecute and prevent sex crimes.  Paxton and 37 attorneys general had previously sent a letter to the ALI that resulted in positive updates to the MPC, but additional interim revisions passed by the ALI Council have raised important new concerns.

The U.S. Department of Justice, the National Association of Attorneys General, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have also criticized the MPC revisions, because they make it more difficult for law enforcement to protect victims while also creating loopholes that sexual predators can exploit to avoid consequences for their acts of depravity.

“The ALI is supposed to work to improve the law, but their proposed changes would cater to criminals while silencing victims of abuse and human trafficking,” Attorney General Paxton said.  “I will never stop fighting for the safety and wellbeing of our most vulnerable and victimized Texans, and I call upon the ALI not to weaken our laws to the advantage of those who commit sex crimes.”

To read the letter click here