Providence school failed to notify DCYF about gym teacher accused of molesting kids

James Duffy, who taught at Harry Kizirian Elementary School, was arraigned in District Court on five counts of child molestation. (On left, James Duffy seen at his arraignment with his lawyer. On right, a police photo of James Duffy following his arrest)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Officials at a Providence elementary school failed to notify the R.I. Department of Children Youth & Families (DCYF) about allegations that a gym teacher was molesting students in the weeks before he was arrested, the school department confirmed Thursday.

James Duffy, who teaches Harry Kizirian Elementary School, was arraigned in District Court Thursday morning on five counts of child molestation. No plea was entered and Duffy’s bail is set at $50,000 with surety.

A Rhode Island law enacted last year requires anyone who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been the victim of sexual abuse must report it to DCYF within 24 hours. Laura Hart, a spokesperson for the school department, said officials are conducting a review of the case.

“In light of this, the district is reviewing both its safety protocols and its school leadership training to make sure that all parties understand and execute their responsibilities when these types of allegations are made,” Hart said in a statement.

Amy Kempe, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, said the investigation remains open.

Hart said Duffy was placed on administrative leave from his $79,925-a-year job on May 9, and the school department has been cooperating with Providence police since May 11. She said the department started an investigation as soon as the allegations were made. When Eyewitness News inquired about the investigation last week, the district refused to comment.

In a complaint filed with Providence police on May 11, one of the alleged victim’s parents said the school “never called her to inform her of her daughter’s allegations.” In an arrest affidavit, a Providence Police detective said an assistant principal at the school was told the school department was already conducting an investigation.

When the detective contacted the school department, a human resources officer told him numerous interviews has already been conducted in regards to the allegations against Duffy, according to the affidavit. The detective said several incidents in the documents constituted second-degree child molestation.

The police department interviewing four girls – all age 11 – who were possible victims after they had already been interviewed by the school department, the affidavit states. The police interviews occurred on June 22 and June 23, more than a month after Duffy was placed on leave.

During one of the interviews, an alleged victims said Duffy “was touching me and my best friends.” She said the incident occurred in gym class, with Duffy touching her chest. She said his body rubbed against her back and told the interviewer “I was scared.”

Another girl claimed Duffy touched the side of her chest and began to “grind” on the back of her body with his body. A third girl also claimed Duffy touched her chest while she was doing jumping jacks.

Duffy ended up being charged two counts of second-degree molestation against two of the girls and one count of molesting another girl.

Duffy has been ordered to have no contact with the three victims or anyone under the age of 16. In addition, the court ordered Duffy to surrender his passport and sign an order waiving extradition, Kempe said.

A pre-arraignment conference was set for September 21, Kempe said.

Hart said the school is planning to send a letter to all parents.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan