Two hushed up incidents question transparency of School Department

Are the children open to danger?

By Josh Resnek

Two recent serious incidents involving students and a teacher at the Webster and English Schools, a sexual assault and inappropriate behavior respectively, have not been reported publicly by the School Department, according to a number of sources all claiming familiarity about the particulars but who refused to be identified.

The apparent egregiousness of the incidents, and the degree to which public officials here have gone out of their way to obscure them, highlights some of the difficult issues facing student safety and Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani as she takes over the School Department this week.

Several e-mails from the Leader Herald to Tahiliani detailing the incidents went unanswered.

In late January, four fifth graders at the Webster School allegedly assaulted a fellow fifth grader at the back of the school, an act of sexual violence recorded on School Department video cameras, and played for the Webster School Principal Denise Hanlon and then handed over to the police, the source added.

“She was sickened by what she viewed on those videos,” said a source close to the investigation.

The video has not been released as it relates to minors, nor has the name of the assaulted or those who did the alleged sexual assault.

The mother of the boy who was assaulted, who wishes to remain unnamed, has filed a notification with the Department of Children and Families and an independent investigation has been opened.

Two employees of the For Kids Only Program (FKO) have been dismissed as a result of this incident.

FKO is based in Revere. FKO runs the Everett Public Schools after school program at the Webster School.

FKO Webster School Site Director Crystal Woods, who was in charge of the after school program, was dismissed following the incident. FKO is owned by Deborah Keegan.

The agency, the police and the School Department all refused to comment.

The second incident occurred in October and was reported in the Leader Herald when the School Department failed to act as required by the law following a serious incident by a physical education teacher employed at the English School.

Jason Abruzzese spent the night in a jail cell in the Everett Police lockup after he was arrested and charged with domestic assault. After his arraignment in Malden District Court, and following his release from custody, he turned up at the English School to his teaching position.

Abruzzese is the son of School Committee Chair Attorney Thomas Abruzzese.

Acting Superintendent of Schools Janice Gauthier transferred Jason Abruzzese to the Parlin School as a result of his arrest.

This set off a toxic reaction to his arrest by parents of children at the English School.

This resulted in Jason Abruzzese’s transfer to be upended by Gauthier.

He was suspended with pay from his position.

Upon further investigation, Abruzzese’s computer was confiscated and searched by police officials and a private investigator.

State Police have recently sought to take over the investigation and possible prosecution of Abruzzese for allegedly snap chatting suggestively with school children and to determine whether or not pornography charges may be upcoming, according to a source. These two incidents are expected to reveal how Tahiliani will deal with sensitive matters and serious incidents affecting the safety of the children in the EPS.

Also to be determined is how exactly Tahiliani’s efforts at transparency will bring fresh air to the School Department as promised by Chairman Abruzzese during the selection process.

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