Providence school employees to be retrained on reporting policy

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As a Providence school principal stands accused of violating the state’s mandatory reporting requirements for child abuse, employees of all city schools are set to be retrained on that policy later this week.

Harry Kizirian Elementary School principal Violet LeMar was charged last week with failing to contact the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) after learning that a student had accused a physical education teacher of touching her inappropriately.

LeMar turned herself over to police nearly two months after teacher James Duffy was charged with five counts of second-degree child molestation. While the school department placed Duffy on leave immediately after the accusations came to light in May, the subsequent investigation revealed LeMar and other school department officials who were aware of the allegations never contacted the DCYF.

Under Rhode Island law, any school employee aware that a child may have been a victim of sexual abuse is required to report it to the DCYF within 24 hours.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza declined to comment on the active investigation, but said the focus right now is making sure all school employees know the proper reporting procedure.

“What we have done is begun a top-to-bottom review of our policies to make sure that everyone is educated on this new policy,” Elorza said Monday.

“All of our principals and assistant principals were trained and on Friday, every school staff person will be retrained to make sure that there are no questions about when and what to report,” explained Providence Public Schools Superintendent Chris Maher, who also couldn’t comment on the case specifically.

LeMar remains on paid administrative leave. Her lawyer claims LeMar did report the allegations to the school’s human resources office, but said she was told to “stand down” while the school department conducted its investigation. He also said LeMar contacted the parents of the alleged victims.

LeMar is due back in court on Sept. 18.