Providence School Board president plans emergency meeting on child molestation investigation

Photo by Dan McGowan/WPRI 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The president of the Providence School Board said he will call an emergency meeting to review school department protocol following the arrest of a Harry Kizirian Elementary School gym teacher on child molestation charges.

Nicholas Hemond, the president of the board since 2015, told Eyewitness News he will set the meeting for Wednesday July 5. He said he is “extremely frustrated” with the way the school leaders handled the investigation into 53-year-old James Duffy.

“We have a very clear protocol that is written down and in the hands of school leaders as to how to handle these incidents,” Hemond said. He said all staff will receive training on proper reporting responsibilities.

Duffy was arraigned in District Court Thursday morning on five counts of child molestation on three 11-year-old victims. A pre-arraignment conference is set for Sept. 21.

Duffy was placed on leave May 9 after children accused him of touching them inappropriately, but school officials failed to immediately contact Providence police or the R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families.

State law requires anyone who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been the victim of sexual abuse must report it to the agency within 24 hours.

Acting City Council President Sabina Matos has already called for an independent investigation into the school’s handling of the case. A spokesperson for the city confirmed that Providence police executed search warrants at the school department and the elementary school Thursday.

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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