WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The Warwick School Committee voted Thursday night to hire Providence Attorney Vincent Ragosta to investigate the school administration’s handling of child abuse accusations against a science teacher.
Mario Atyoan, 49, is charged with first and second degree sexual assault of a 15-year-old female relative last June. His accuser has no connection to Gorton Junior High, according to police.
School committee member Karen Bachus said she proposed the investigation following questions from the mayor, city council and parents who feel there’s been a lack of transparency by school officials in the case.
“It’s about our children being safe in our schools and assuring the community that they are,” Bachus said.
Not long after Atoyan’s arrest, police told Eyewitness News a student’s mother came forward, claiming Atoyan drew a sexually-explicit picture on her daughter’s hand back in 2013.
School Superintendent Richard D’Agostino has maintained Atoyan has never been involved in any inappropriate behavior at the school that would endanger students. But, he’s refused to release information about Atoyan’s history or the case itself.
School committee member Bethany Furtado made it clear at the meeting that she is against the investigation, calling it a witch hunt, and defending D’Agostino’s actions.
Other members also in attendance Thursday night applauded the vote, saying their constituents want answers.
“We want an investigation ,we want answers and as soon as possible. we deserve the,” Donna Travis, president of the Warwick City Council said.
Atoyan is scheduled for a pre-trial conference on April 27 in Washington County Superior Court.