A state report has found Hartford public schools failed to adequately respond to child abuse and neglect allegations over nearly a decade.
Connecticut Child Advocate (OCA) Sarah Eagan said Friday that her office's nine-month review revealed district officials didn't follow protocols for reporting potential abuse and neglect, as mandated by state and federal law and the school district's own reporting policies.
The report outlines the fact employees repeatedly accused of misconduct were often allowed to remain on the job for months or even years, including former administrator Eduardo Genao. He was forced to resign and arrested by Hartford police for felony risk of injury to a minor back in the Spring of last year. That is when a young girl’s mother from New York State discovered explicit text messages from Genao to her daughter Genao pleaded not guilty in court.
The 76-page report outlines questions surrounding how the situation was handled.
OCA also criticized both school officials and a community advocate for not reporting to Department of Children and Families (DCF) properly.
"School district for much of the previous decade did not regularly review or update its mandated reporting policies as legally required. Training of reporters was inadequate and often not documented. Mandated reporters sometimes failed to make reports that certain employees had abused or neglected a child," Egan told NBC Connecticut.
Acting Hartford Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez told NBC Connecticut, "I am saddened, disappointed and I am angered by the findings in this report. As a leader I am committed to creating a culture in our district of high expectations."
The report was commissioned by Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, after Eduardo Genao’s arrest. He said parents have every right to be angry and the aftermath of the report demands an immediate and aggressive response and dramatic culture chance and a whole new level of accountability and expectation of Hartford Public Schools.
"What it reveals is a decade long failure of policies procedures and practice to adequately protect children in HPD it demonstrates an outrageous and unacceptable level of dysfunction and lack of policy," Bronin said.
The OCA report also revealed Genao had a history of "grooming" like behavior dating back almost ten years involving Hartford students.
Ultimately, DCF found Genao had questionable contact with at least one student, who the OCA said tried to tell school officials. Apparently she had said Genao made her uncomfortable and she didn't want to be alone with him.
"She told a lot of people, that was her avenue of seeking help. And a lot of adults gave her advice. How to get the principal to stop texting her, or take her off the list and one person said you should tell someone in authority, and was telling someone in authority," Egan said.
Genao continued to be promoted and moved laterally within the district when concerns came up. The report also said there are other employees with mandated reporting concerns who are being carefully reviewed.
"With child abuse, suspected abuse, if we know that people know and have not acted they will be held accountable up to and including termination," Torres-Rodriguez said.
According to Eagan, key findings from the report—developed after a thorough review of district and child welfare records, as well as interviews with a number of individuals with knowledge of district practices, include:
1) The school district did not regularly review and update its mandated reporting policy as legally required.
2) Training of mandated reporters was inadequate.
3) Mandated reporters sometimes failed to make reports concerning suspicion that school employees have neglected or abused a child.
4) DCF did not have a system in place to efficiently document, track and address either the failure to make mandated reports or delays in mandated reporting.
5) School employees who engaged in misconduct were not effectively held accountable.
6) There exists a special vulnerability for children with disabilities to possible abuse or neglect.