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Ferebee: Failure to report abuse 'incompetence'

Posted at 3:00 PM, Mar 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-04 19:28:26-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Public School Board voted to terminate an employee who is accused of having sex with two students.

The vote happened on the same day Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee held a meeting to discuss the allegations of abuse, and the independent investigation that followed.

IPS counselor Shana Taylor is accused of having sex multiple times with two students, sometimes during the actual school day. The 37-year-old faces 11 charges, including several counts of child seduction. 

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IPS waited six days to report the alleged abuse to Indiana Department of Child Services.

Ferebee said Friday that all employees knew of their reporting obligation, and discipline will come to the employees involved. He said Longfellow Alternative School's assistant principal had the first obligation to report the alleged abuse. 

According to Ferebee, the assistant principal was made aware of the allegations on Feb. 17. The assistant principal told the school's principal. The information then went to the director of student services and human resources, who assumed someone contacted DCS. 

Ferebee called it a "clear case of incompetence." 

"Very disappointed by the incompetence of our employees. One, not reporting and secondly, not adhering to policy and administrative procedures," Ferebee said. 

IPS only allowed a handful of media questions Friday and would not comment on the current status of the involved employees. 

An expert on child sexual abuse said Thursday Indianapolis Public School officials could face criminal charges for waiting to report the allegations. 

MORE | CALL 6: Expert: Officials may face criminal charges for delay

Read Dr. Ferebee's full statement on the issue below:

“These are difficult times. There seems to be an unfortunate and appalling surge of adults in our noblest profession who do not do the right thing. This certainly impacts our district, and also our community and broader education system.

To be clear, adults who for whatever reason, lack the moral substance, to ensure the safety of students and do their jobs as educators are an acute abnormality in our profession. They do not reflect the thousands of honorable, dedicated, and talented educators in IPS or the tens of thousands in our state who are among three million across our nation.

Indianapolis Public Schools teachers are among the most hard-working, compassionate and conscientious educators you will find. They tirelessly give their wisdom, time and even their personal resources without hesitation to prepare our students for success. These caring adults go above and beyond each day to ensure our students are achieving in the classroom, and they’re also willingly stand in the gap for students who come to school lacking some of the most basic needs.

In the matter of the employee who is recommended for termination of employment today and charged with allegedly engaging in sexual acts with one or more students, I will provide confirmed information to date, as the police investigation is still ongoing.

I will also share findings from an independent review of district reporting in this ongoing case, and next steps regarding individuals and districtwide efforts.

An independent investigation has revealed the chain of events regarding the reporting of the allegations.

On the evening of Wednesday, February 17, a parent reported to an assistant principal at our Positive Supports Academy (also known as the Longfellow building) that a female school counselor had been involved in an inappropriate relationship with a male student.

There is no indication that the counselor was having inappropriate sexual relationships with students prior to the report from the parent on the evening of February 17.

After talking with the parent, the assistant principal consulted with the principal, who was on medical leave. The principal came in to help address the situation. Neither administrator contacted Child Protective Services.

According to state statute, Board policy and administrative guidelines, when the school administrator (or any staff member) is notified or learns of inappropriate relationships with a student, he or she must report that immediately; in this situation that did not occur.

The assistant principal immediately contacted the director of student services.

The director, inaccurately assuming the school administrators had followed the first step of the policy, directed the assistant principal to immediately contact human resources to address the dire personnel matter.

Human resources, assuming CPS had been contacted by the school administrators, instantly sought to ensure the accused employee had no further access to our students, pending an investigation into the allegations.

It appears everyone involved focused on isolating the employee. However, all who were involved and knowledgeable of the relevant facts agreed they were aware of their reporting obligations.

At the corpus of these careless errors, is a very disappointing tangle of miscommunication.

Staff assumed a report had been made to CPS without confirming until days later whether school administrators had adhered strictly to policy. The error was discovered on Monday, February 22 by an employee who was processing the school counselor’s personnel file for recommendation for termination. The principal completed the report and transmitted it to CPS on February 23 – yet another unacceptable delay.

This is clearly not the case of a cover up or any malicious intent not to report sexual relations between an adult and student.

I commend our employees for ensuring that safety was our first priority by immediately working to bar the accused employee’s access to our students.

Still, that effort does not negate the fact that the employees who had the relevant facts did not fulfil our reporting responsibility. I am very disturbed that reporting the allegations did not occur in a timely manner. The district has explicit procedures; and again, the individuals who were privy to the relevant facts, admittedly, were aware of those obligations.

This is a clear case of incompetence; and the administration will aggressively issue discipline accordingly.

As for the employee that is accused of engaging in lewd behaviors with at least one student, I am told there is still an active investigation into the alleged acts and parties that were involved.

That individual will not return to Indianapolis Public Schools, in any capacity.

Our talented workforce will not be collectively tainted by the deplorable acts of any individual.

The safety of our students is our first priority. Our job is to not only educate students, but to also protect them. Situations that compromise student safety must be addressed by adhering to policies and procedures.

We have directed our school leaders to immediately review the policies and administrative guidelines that are included in the Guide to Emergency Procedures. This user-friendly book was revised in 2014, and it includes sequential instructions for what to do in a crisis situation. These books are housed in each school.

Districtwide training is being planned with an external agency to provide staff with more useful information and affirm expectations around safety protocols.

These breakdowns are unacceptable and simply cannot occur. Neither, I nor our Board take this matter lightly; and the administration is working to address this concern.

To my fellow IPS parents, we appreciate that you trust us every day with your children. We value that greatly; and we will do everything within our means to continue earning your trust.”

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