PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Eleven Providence school employees placed on administrative leave did not meet the criteria for Child Protective Services investigations, the state Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) said Wednesday.
The employees were on leave since the beginning of the school year for “allegations of inappropriate behavior or failure to follow protocols,” according to school spokesperson Laura Hart. Seven of the employees returned to work on Wednesday.
DCYF spokesperson Kerri White said state law requires their department to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by school employees or volunteers.
In the past, Hart said, the district has typically conducted an internal investigation to determine if an allegation has merit, but it is now allowing the DCYF to conclude its own investigations and provide guidance.
“This change in policy has resulted in an increase in staff members being placed on administrative leave this fall,” Hart said.
Hart said the “majority of these leaves involve separate incidents that were not related” and the school department has reported the incidents to DCYF. Eyewitness News is not identifying the 11 staff members because no one has been charged with a crime.
The school department has been under heightened scrutiny after it admitted that it failed to contact DCYF when multiple students at Harry Kizirian Elementary School accused a physical education teacher of touching them inappropriately last May. The teacher, James Duffy, was charged with five counts of second-degree child molestation on three different children.
The fallout led to Kizirian principal Violet LeMar being charged with failing to report the molestation claims to DCYF, a misdemeanor. She has pleaded not guilty. At least five other school department employees were aware of the children’s claims, but no one else has been charged.