Mandatory report belatedly filed in Providence school molestation case

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It took a Providence elementary school principal nearly two months to file a mandatory incident report with the school department after several children claimed they were touched inappropriately by the school’s physical education teacher, Target 12 has learned.

Documents released in response to a public records request Wednesday show Harry Kizirian Elementary School Principal Violet LeMar submitted a critical incident report outlining the students’ allegations on July 5, less than a week after teacher James Duffy was charged with five counts of second-degree child molestation involving three 11-year-old victims.

The report states the incident occurred on May 9. LeMar called the type of incident “teacher misconduct.”

Incident reports are supposed to be submitted to the school department’s director of operations “as soon as possible,” according to the district’s longstanding policy on sexual offenses.

LeMar was charged with a misdemeanor in August for failing to contact the R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) after the children claimed they were touched inappropriately. State law requires anyone who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been the victim of sexual abuse to report it to DCYF within 24 hours. She has pleaded not guilty and was placed on leave by the district.

LeMar filed the incident report on the same day she also contacted DCYF. She was charged on Aug. 22. Failure to file a critical incident report is not a crime, but it is a violation of school department policy.

In the report, LeMar checked off a box that said no one was physically harmed during the incident. She claimed that two students reported to the main office to accuse Duffy of touching them. The report claims that one of the students said the teacher touched her chest, but “when asked for clarification, she said he had his hands on her shoulders and his fingers were over her shoulders but not near her breasts.”

Duffy was placed on paid administrative leave after the initial allegations. He has not returned to work, but he has not been terminated by the school district.

Reached Wednesday, Tom Gulick, LeMar’s attorney, said his client “did everything that she was told that she needed to do.” He said the incident report suggests the children weren’t sexually abused.

“It looks like what was initially reported to Violet was not abuse,” he said.

LeMar is the only school employee who was charged with failing to report the allegations to DCYF even though at least five others were aware of the incident.

Internal emails reviewed by Target 12 show an employee notified the administration that a providence police detective arrived at the school.

That email read:

“Just FYI. Kizirian James Scott just called me saying a PPD Detective Dyer Badge 18- showed up at Kizirian this morning. He stated he was investigating a police complaint regarding Jim Duffy and wanted to speak with students. Assistant Principal Scott gave him my phone number and said that the detective would have to contact me first since the Providence School Department had an open HR investigation. I have not received any call yet.”

The emails were both sent on May 16.

In response to the above, the Human Resources director wrote:

“Okay, the police should conduct their investigation. Theirs supersedes HR’s. We will share what we have. The parents should be contacted if the students involved.”

Gulick said LeMar will be back in court later this month.

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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

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook