After more than six months of stonewalling, the City School District of New Rochelle is now confirming a story first broken on Talk of the Sound of a sexting incident at Albert Leonard Middle School and the involvement of Donna Henry, a former school security guard who is currently awaiting reassignment as a “cleaner” on the night shift at New Rochelle High School.
Aman Ali has a front page story in the Journal News, School guard faces demotion, accused of failing to report effort to stop rumored “sexting”
Superintendent Richard Organisciak, providing information on background to the Journal News, sought to minimize the incident, providing a fanciful tale claiming that Donna Henry had simply exercised “poor judgement”. After months of denying, ignoring, hiding or otherwise seeking to deflect the story, the District’s newest version portrays Donna Henry as a good-hearted lone ranger who, having heard rumors that a female student had sent nude photos of herself to her boyfriend, initiated her own personal investigation to help the girl and, in doing so, inadvertently violated school district procedure by not reporting her efforts to her superiors.
This is a far cry from the truth but it is the first time the school district has formally acknowledged an incident that Talk of the Sound first began reporting on in January. The District has yet to acknowledge that Donna Henry, as we have reported previously, obtained a nude image of a child and transmitted the image to other adults. Talk of the Sound has learned that at least two other adults were involved, both employees of the school district.
Marty Daly, President of F.U.S.E., singing from the same hymnal as the District, initially said he would not talk about the matter out of respect for the privacy and due process rights of Donna Henry and then went on to defend Henry as a “long-time employee” who simply exercised “poor judgement”. In a pointed remark directed at Talk of the Sound, Daly described our reporting as “exaggerating this beyond what is fair”.
The New Rochelle Police Department also figure prominently in the article. Detective Ray Andolina told Ali that “police did not find anything that would warrant official charges”. Lt. Christopher Hearle said the incident involved only children “as far as we know”. One bit of new information from the article is that the police offered to hold seminars on sexting at the schools but the District declined.
The article is a major victory for Talk of the Sound as it validates much of what we have been reporting on the ALMS Sexting incident but there still plenty of reporting left to do.
There is a great deal to digest in this article and a number of discrepancies which bear further investigation. We want to invite readers to comment and expand on this post. In order for readers to make a side-by-side comparison, we have provided links to the Journal News article and something we have withheld until now — the New Rochelle Police Department Incident Report initiated by ALMS Principal Bill Evans. Also, we link previous articles from Talk of the Sound. Below these links we have identified several of the “discrepancies which bear further investigation” and will welcome additional suggestions.
New Rochelle Police Department: Sexting Incident Report Filed by Bill Evans
Previous Talk of the Sound Articles:
Previous Talk of the Sound Op-Eds:
May 19, 2009: Did Polow Commit A Crime in Failing to Report ?
DISCREPANCIES BETWEEN JOURNAL NEWS ARTICLE AND OFFICIAL ACCOUNTS FROM CSDNR AND NRPD
1. “sexually explicit cell phone pictures”
The NRPD Incident Report refers to a single image so why is the Journal News talking about multiple images?
2. “A student texted racy photos of herself to her boyfriend”
The NRPD Incident Report says the boyfriend took the photos and that he took them on his cellphone. This is important because the IR says the phone police examined was the boyfriend’s phone not the girl’s phone and that the phone was returned to the boyfriend. Also, the IR says that based on NRPD analysis of the image they were able to positively determine that no one else was involved in taking the photo because the boyfriend is visible in the photo and this became a basis for closing the investigation. As above, the use of the plural “racy photos” contradicts police records.
3. “New Rochelle Police say this is not the District’s first sexting incident.”
At the January School Board Meeting held at Jefferson Elementary School, CSDNR IT Director Christine Coleman gave a presentation on the dangers of sexting, clearly in response to the December incident, in which she stated that the District had never had a sexting incident.
4. Detective Andolina and other officers said “police did not find anything that would warrant official charges”
The NRPD did not find “anything” because they did not look very hard. Detective Andolina recently admitted as much while speaking before a local community meeting. Andolina dismissed reporting on Talk of the Sound, calling it “30% accurate” and defending his investigation by asking rhetorically whether people expected him to track down every cell phone that received the photo. Our answer here would be an unequivocal “yes”. More to the point, NRPD does not have the capability to find anything in a case like this through technical analysis which is required in a case like this. The NRPD does not have a single officer who is qualified to do a forensic examination of a computer hard drive including a cell phone SIM card or local memory on the phone. The NRPD has no officer qualified to do the sort of image analysis required in this case. No effort was made to request or examine phone records.
5. Lt. Hearle said the case “involves children and only children as far as we know“.
While I suppose ignorance is bliss, as they say, the article does not address whether Hearle or anyone at NRPD was made aware by school officials of the involvement of Donna Henry. Whether or not they were made aware, they are certainly aware now so they could re-open their investigation except for one problem: the IR indicates NRPD already destroyed all the evidence in the case and returned the boyfriend’s cell phone to him.
6. “This was not some kind of nefarious plot by adults in a child pornography ring. It was a group of children who made poor decisions, and we dealt with it accordingly on an educational level in cooperation with the school rather than on a criminal capacity”.
This is nothing more than a transparent attempt by NRPD to dismiss the issue through the use of exaggeration and hyperbole. Talk of the Sound has never alleged that Donna Henry or anyone else involved is part of a “child pornography ring”. Adults were, however, involved, in obtaining sexual images of a child and at least one of them, Donna Henry, transmitted the image to other adults.
A final thought before we open this up for comments.
The article says that word got around Albert Leonard that the girl texted “racy photos” of herself to her boyfriend and that Donna Henry “reportedly tried to get hold of the girl’s cell phone to see whether the rumors were true but did not report the incident to her superiors.” It also says that NRPD was called by Bill Evans who heard about the incident from students.
Let’s take this official version at face value just for a moment: Henry heard rumors about sexting but failed to report the rumors and so was suspended 30 days without pay and is being demoted and stuck on the night shift at New Rochelle High School.
If the version being peddled by Organisciak and Daly were true this would be a tremendous miscarriage of justice for Donna Henry, right? Surely they cannot punish school guards for not reporting hallway gossip among students, can they?
If Evans only heard about the incident from students then how does anyone in the District even know that Donna Henry was involved in all?
How would Henry “try” to get hold of the girl’s cell phone? She either got hold of it or she did not. What would be noteworthy about trying and failing to get hold of someone’s cell phone. What does that even mean? Did she break into the girl’s locker at school? Break into her house? Seems to me that trying and failing to get someone’s cell phone is the same as not getting someone’s cell phone and if she did not get the cell phone then what is the basis for the hearing, suspension and demotion?
How about this?
Donna Henry DID get hold of the cell phone, obtained the image and transmitted the image to other adults.
Wouldn’t that make more sense in light to the actions taken by the school district in holding a disciplinary hearing, suspending Henry without pay, placing her in a make-work position guarding an empty conference room and attempting to demote her and reassign her to the “night shift” at New Rochelle High School?
We have been communicating about this case with local and national media for several weeks now and, as we expected, the Board Resolution was the sort of documentation needed to convince traditional news organizations to run the story. As the story gets picked up we will update this post with links:
UPDATE (AP/Northest Region Has the Story from Journal News)
Newsday: `Sexting’ flap at NY school
New York Post: `Sexting’ flap at NY
WCAX-TV (Vermont): ‘Sexting’ flap at NY school
USA TODAY: Sexting’ flap at NY school
Huffington Post: “Sexting” Strife Strikes Suburban School
Village Voice: School Guard Tries to “Confiscate” Nude Cell Pic, Gets Raise