Shearer Elementary School parents questioned school administrators about their children’s safety this week after discovering that they had not been informed about an alleged sexual assault that had been reported at the school last fall.
Via the Napa County Crime Map, parents discovered that a report of child sexual abuse had been made at the school on Nov. 6. The alleged crime is listed as felony lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old.
Napa Police and representatives with the Napa Valley Unified School District confirmed that a report had been made, that there was an investigation and that no arrest was made.
After finding out about it, Monique Lalonde, a parent at the school, posted some information about the allegation on Facebook, saying that the alleged incident happened between a student and a teacher’s aide on school property during school hours. She was trying to figure out what, if anything, she should do with this information.
“I found out about this a few weeks ago … (and) I was struggling with how I should handle this,” Lalonde said Wednesday. Finally, on Monday night, she posted the information online and soon other parents were sharing the post, demanding answers from the school.
By Thursday, the post on her personal Facebook page had been shared 50 times.
Parents wanted to know the result of any investigation that was done and why they weren’t informed of the allegations when they were made in November.
School officials said that, upon learning of the alleged incident, they immediately reported it to Child Protective Services (CPS) and the Napa Police.
Police performed their own investigation following the Nov. 6 report, but it’s no longer being actively investigated, Lt. Brian Campagna said Wednesday. Police also reported the matter to CPS.
The incident was alleged to have occurred on Nov. 3.
NVUSD officials said Wednesday that the employee who had been under investigation no longer works for the district for reasons unrelated to the allegations.
But, during an informal meeting at the school on Thursday morning, officials told parents that the employee was fired because of the incident.
Alejandro Hogan, assistant superintendent for NVUSD Human Resources, told parents that the male employee had acted in a way that was “borderline” and which school officials deemed “inappropriate,” though not illegal, and fired him.
There was no assault, and any information on social media saying that there was one is false, Principal Elizabeth Gonzalez told parents. Although she understands their desire for more information, Gonzalez said the school must also protect the student and the former employee’s privacy.
“We took this matter very serious,” she said.
Before Hogan showed up at the meeting, communication between the angry parents, Gonzalez and Dana Page, executive director of NVUSD Human Resources, had broken down. Page told the parents that the police investigation concluded that nothing illegal had occurred, so parents who weren’t directly affected were not informed.
“If this happened way back in November, why am I just hearing about it now,” one father asked.
“Just because an allegation is made … doesn’t mean a person is guilty,” Page said. If there was a threat to students, parents would have been contacted, she said.
Parents were not happy with what one mother called Page’s “scripted” response.
“When do we get to know that something occurred?” asked another dad. “We are pissed off.” Although he doesn’t think the school is trying to cover anything up or that there is a “network of predators” at the school, he said that the optics look bad.
Parents said that they are informed almost daily about things going on at the school, so why not this?
What happens next time? they asked. Can the school come up with some sort of protocol to inform them when allegations are made or resolved?
“I don’t want parents to feel more fear because there was an allegation or report,” Page said. The school doesn’t want parents to panic, especially because no crime was committed, she said. The person in question, she added, has no criminal record.
“Information is always better,” said a parent. “Not telling us anything is wrong.”
“Now it looks wrong,” said another.
“We should have known more. You’re asking us to trust you, but how can we?”
Whether or not the alleged perpetrator was cleared or arrested, parents still have a right to know what is going on at their children’s school, Lalonde said.
“I think I’m more mad now than before I got here,” said one mother. “Is my kid safe here or do I need to take him out?”
“I’m sorry this wasn’t satisfying to you all,” Page said.
“The most important thing that (parents) need to know is the safety of their kids is of utmost importance to us and if we had any reason to suspect their kids weren’t safe they would know about it,” Elizabeth Emmett, NVUSD spokesperson, said after the meeting. “If something like this happened again, we wouldn’t inform them .... we would handle it in the same exact way.”