UPDATE: Talk of the Sound has confirmed the person we spoke with on January 21st is the person alleged to have committed a sexual assault on February 8th, for an incident that occurred in early January and was forced to resign. There is one case, involving one complainant and one accused person.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY — On February 8th, New Rochelle Police Department responded to a complaint of sexual abuse at 25 Gerada Lane, the address of Albert Leonard Middle School.
This information appeared in a police blotter report I obtained from the New Rochelle Police Department on February 11th. I requested police records for the incident on February 12th. On February 13th I was denied my request for the records on two grounds: that the case involved juveniles and that it was an active investigation. I was told no further information would be provided.
Much of the little I was told turned out not to be true: the case involved a juvenile and an adult not “juveniles”, further information was provided just not to me.
Not feeling I had enough for a full article I posted what I was told by police. News12 and the Journal News, which both monitor Talk of the Sound, used my reporting to obtain additional information from the police: that it was adult v. child, that the adult was a general school aide (i.e., security guard), that the incident is alleged to have occurred in early January, that the security was no longer employed by the District.
CSDNR Media Statement
February 13, 2019
Statement from Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Magda Parvey
The District immediately notified the New Rochelle Police Department on Friday when an Albert Leonard Middle School student made an allegation of past inappropriate contact by a former school employee. The District is fully cooperating with the investigation.
NRPD Media Statement
February 13, 2018
On Feb 8 at 1:28 pm, a sexual abuse complaint was made to this Department by a Albert Leonard student, against a security guard. The allegation is that it occurred in early January. My understanding is that the guard is no longer employed, but I do not know when the guard left employment or under what circumstances. The matter is under investigation by New Rochelle Police Detectives.
I have since informed New Rochelle police that I was previously contacted by a person who may have information relevant to the investigation.
On January 21, 2019 at 3:49 p.m., I received a text message:
Hi my name is XXXX XXXX I’m a former General school aid who was recently forced to resign.
I would like to see if you’re interested in meeting to hear the specifics along with other information that would expose the corruption and unfair practices that has been taken place with New Rochelle school district.
I’m am currently trying to get a video through the freedom of information act which show the reason I was forced to resign. If you’re interested in sitting down for a discussion on this personal attack please give me a call at XXX-XXX-XXXX
I placed a call this person soon after receiving the text. We spoke for 20-30 minutes or so, perhaps longer.
On the call he told me his side of a story.
He said he was confronted by bosses at Albert Leonard and shown a video taken from a security camera in the cafeteria. He denied doing anything wrong. He said in the video he saw himself briefly put his hand on a student’s shoulder and was told that by virtue of putting his hand on the student he would be fired. He was offered the option to resign and had done so by the time he contacted me so he was no longer employed by the District when we spoke on the telephone.
He stated his primary purpose in calling me was he knew I routinely obtained school district records and “fought” the school district and he wanted advice on how he could obtain a copy of the video under a Freedom of Information request.
This sort of outreach to me is not uncommon.
I explained to him that the school district would certainly claim (with justification) that the video was exempt from FOIL due to state and federal privacy reasons and that obtaining the video through FOIL was highly unlikely.
I told him that the only way I could think of to get the video would be to file a lawsuit and seek the video through a discovery motion. I told him that could take years and costs tens of thousands of dollars. I told him if he wanted to pursue that I could suggest a few lawyers but as he was obviously not wanted, was not likely to get a sympathetic hearing from higher ups and had, in fact, violated school policy no matter how minor he thought the infraction and that he currently had the option to walk away with “no harm, no foul” in terms of employment history he might want to consider letting it go and finding a job elsewhere.
He continued talking. He said the student exaggerated in his complaint for the purpose of getting him fired. He said he heard that the student had bragged that he had gotten him fired and that he was going to get someone else fired. I believe he may have said the student was Hispanic. The way the former security guard told the story is the student was on a power trip, showing off to other students that he could get school employees fired by making up or exaggerating stories.
This former security guard is unknown to me. I had no relationship with him before he texted me and we have not communicated since our phone call (subsequent text messages and voice mails did not receive a response). He is not a source and we had no agreement about his unsolicited statements to me being off-the-record or on-background.
Given the implications of this man’s story, I decided to first share what I knew with the police investigating the matter. I did that yesterday. Still not having heard back on multiple attempts to speak with the former security guard — and the police not making any request of me to the contrary — I am sharing what I know with readers.
There are several options here.
First, the former security guard was not being fulsome in his statements to me, that he was not fired for touching the student on the shoulder but in a way that might be deemed sexual touching.
Second, he was truthful about his case but the same student who made a complaint about him made a second complaint 18 days later about a different employee. If that were the case, it gives a different context to the statement from the person who contacted me; that a student was bragging about making up stories to get employees fired.
Third, if the person who texted me is the same person who is alleged to have committed a sexual assault that is a whole other issue because by January 21st, this person was no longer employed by the District and the complaint to the police was made on February 8th. Dr. Parvey said the District immediately notified police of the student’s complaint. Captain Costa said the police received the complaint from the student. Those are not the same thing so the exact sequence needs to be made more clear.
The police said the alleged incident reported on February 8th occurred in early January and that it involved a security guard who left the employment of the school district in January.
It is illegal in New York for the District to allow an employee to resign while there are allegations of sexual abuse against that employee. It is called a “silent resignation”.
There is a history of failures by school officials to notify police of major crimes including what appears to have been a silent resignation in 2013.
In 2013, the school district accepted the resignation of Jose Martinez in March 2013 when there were long-standing allegations of sexual abuse against him (later sustained, he pleaded guity that summer). So, it is not unheard of for the New Rochelle Board of Education to do what appears to have been a silent resignation. Further, at least a half-dozen people including senior administrators and a school board member were aware of the allegations a year before the arrest of Martinez and failed to inform police or child protective services.
On January 18, 2018, New Rochelle Police Deputy Commissioner Robert Gazzola told Talk of the Sound that no employee at New Rochelle High School called 911 to report that a student was stabbed twice in the torso by another student. On the same day, District Medical Director Brooke Balchan ordered her nursing staff not to call for an ambulance as this student lay bleeding to death in front of her. Gazzola said 15 minutes after the stabbing a parent finally called police.
Talk of the Sound has recently reported on undisclosed (to parents, the public) gun threats involving students at George M. Davis Jr. Elementary School, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, and Christopher Columbus Elementary School that were covered up by school officials as well as a sexual assault of a Davis teacher by an outside consultant.
It is worth noting that in early January, the legal counsel for the District remained Jeff Kehl who for four decades advocated a standing practice not to make police reports or terminate employees so as to prevent the creation of a paper trail that might embarrass the District leadership. By February 8th, Kehl was out, replaced by a new law firm with different ideas about transparency and accountability. So, an incident from early January was not reported to police while Kehl was still outside counsel; once Kehl left the January incident it is reported in February. Nothing definitive here but worth a look.
As I am not sure if this is the same guy or there are two guys accused by the same student or two entirely unrelated cases, I decided to provide this information to police and let them sort it out.
One thing I can say is when school officials issue a statement that the “District is fully cooperating with the investigation,” historically that has not been the case.