Six employees at a Redwood City school are facing disciplinary action after district officials say they failed to report allegations of abuse against a special-education teacher.
Alexia Bogdis, 43, was arraigned on Thursday on charges that she kicked and slapped a 4-year-old student and twisted the wrist and withheld food and drink from another student at an elementary school. She plead not guilty.
After the hearing Bogdis told reporters, "I would just like to say I have never abused a child. I can't believe this is happening."
The mother of one of the alleged victims was also in court Thursday. She said the allegations, "break my heart."
The district says an internal investigation found the six employees were aware of the abuse allegations, but did not report them to authorities.
It did not name the employees, but said they will be disciplined. What disciplinary action would be taken was not clear.
The alleged abuse victims were part of a special education preschool class at Roosevelt Elementary School. At least one of them has autism.
The district sent out the following letter to parents on Wednesday:
February 29, 2012
Dear RCSD Community,
Nothing is more important to us than protecting our students and keeping them safe at all times. Parents entrust their children to us; we have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to ensure that all staff maintain the highest standard of behavior toward students at all times. Further, if any staff member ever suspects that any student is being abused in any way by anyone, including by fellow staff members, they must immediately contact Child Protective Services (CPS) personally. Every staff member who is hired by our district signs a statement acknowledging that they understand the legal responsibility they have to report any suspected cases of child abuse to a child protective agency as soon as practically possible. (See attached.)
When an instructional aide made allegations on February 1, 2012, that a special education teacher physically abused students under her care in a special education pre-school class, we took immediate steps to ensure the safety of our students:
* We immediately placed the teacher on paid administrative leave so that we could look into the matter further. Administrative leave is a procedure that is used to protect the rights of everyone involved when allegations are made; it ensures that facts are determined before any conclusions are reached.
* We reminded the instructional aide of her legal obligation to report the matter immediately to Child Protective Services (CPS), which she did. CPS instructed the aide to contact the Redwood City Police Department, which she also did.
* When law enforcement became involved in the case, we cooperated fully with the police investigation.
* We interviewed all staff connected with the situation to determine what happened, and whether all proper reporting procedures had been followed.
* Our internal review showed that the alleged abuse was limited to one special education pre-school classroom housed at Roosevelt School. We found no evidence that the Roosevelt principal, any Roosevelt K-6 teachers or any staff member from the Child Development Center, a district-run pre-school housed at Roosevelt School, had any awareness of the alleged abuse.
* After our internal review suggested that proper reporting procedures may not have been followed, eight additional employees were placed on administrative leave on February 9. An independent investigator conducted a thorough review of the matter to determine when employees first learned of possible abuse and whether they acted according to legal and district procedures.
That review has now been completed and indicates that six employees knew of possible abuse and did not meet their legal obligation to report it. As a result, the district will proceed with appropriate disciplinary action for these employees. At this point, we have no conclusive evidence that any other employees knew of the alleged abuse and failed to report it. If at any time we have clear evidence that any other employee knew of child abuse and failed to report it, I will recommend strong disciplinary action.
In addition, we have increased the resources available to all staff regarding mandated child abuse reporting. All new employees will now be required to complete an approximately 45-minute online training that has recently become available to districts. All administrators will also take this training, as will all current staff members.
The events surrounding the alleged abuse in this case raise important issues for anyone working with children. Our obligation to protect children under our care is our most serious responsibility. Any time RCSD staff become aware of or have reason to believe that something might be wrong, they have not only a moral and ethical responsibility to report it to CPS, but a legal obligation to do so.
We are committed to following the highest standards of safety in the Redwood City School District. If you have questions about the policies we have in place to keep your students safe, I encourage you contact me at any time, firstname.lastname@example.org, 650-423-2230 or talk to your school principal.