INDIANAPOLIS -- An expert on child sexual abuse said Thursday Indianapolis Public School officials could face criminal charges for waiting six days to report allegations of child abuse.
Jennifer Drobac is a professor with the IU McKinney School of Law and author of the book “Sexual Exploitation of Teenagers.”
Call 6 Investigates asked Drobac to weigh in on IPS failing to wait six days to report concerns about counselor Shana Taylor to the Indiana Department of Child Services.
State law requires schools immediately report allegations of child abuse and neglect to DCS or police.
“I can’t give legal advice, but yes, this appears to be a violation of that law, so the answer is yes—there is a potential someone could be charged with a crime,” said Drobac.
“We aren’t talking four hours, we are talking days. This is shocking.”
According to the probable cause affidavit, Longfellow Alternative School Assistant Principal Mr. William Jensen, Director of Student Services Deb Lesor, Human Resources Director Tina Hestor, and human resources case worker Shalon Dabney all knew about the allegations surrounding Taylor.
None of them have been criminally charged.
“The investigation is ongoing and I do not expect to have any more information available for some time,” said Peg McLeish, spokesperson for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.
“This is a serious problem when people don’t report child abuse,” said Drobac. “It appears that IPS that don’t take this seriously and that is absolutely the wrong message to be sending to teenagers and their parents, whether it is intentional or not.”
Drobac pointed to a 2014 Indiana Supreme Court decision that upheld the conviction of a former Muncie Central High School principal who failed to report the rape of a student in a timely manner.
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.
“That case established that schools are not supposed to be launching an investigation into the matter themselves before they report,” said Drobac. “I’ve heard concerns that unless school officials investigate, they don’t know whether they’re reporting something that has validity. But it’s DCS’s job to investigate.”
Drobac said schools need to understand they can still conduct their own investigation, and that reporting to DCS or police does not preclude them from doing their own investigation.
The law professor hopes this case will also educate parents on who to contact if you suspect your child is being abused by a coach, teacher, counselor or anyone.
“You call the police, you call DCS, and of course you call school personnel if this is happening at school,” said Drobac.
IPS has not yet provided anyone to speak with on camera about the delay in reporting to DCS.
To report allegations of child abuse and neglect, call the DCS hotline: 1-800-800-5556.