FCPS Statement on Freedom Hill Elementary School
December 22, 2019
Statement from FCPS School Board Chair Karen Corbett Sanders:
The School Board shares the concerns, anger, and dismay of our special education advocacy partners and the entire community regarding this week’s announcement involving the former employees and principal at Freedom Hill Elementary School. Although, it is important to note the actions of a few do not represent the dedication, compassion, and caring demonstrated each day in FCPS classrooms by the vast majority of our special education teachers and staff. This week’s announcement reinforces our commitment to do everything that we can to ensure that all of our students are learning in a safe environment.
Last spring, in response to media reports on restraint and seclusion the School Board directed the Superintendent to initiate a thorough and independent review of FCPS restraint and seclusion procedures to ensure that we are using the best practices for behavior management and de-escalation techniques to support our children. We now require annual revised training for all special education staff along with training for general education teachers and paraprofessionals.
More recently FCPS implemented a training module for all employees in Fairfax County Public Schools, including this School Board, to understand the signs of abuse and neglect and their obligations to report, based on the regulations of FCPS and the Code of Virginia. This training is above and beyond that required of licensed personnel.
It’s obvious that based on this week’s news, more needs to be done. I expect the new School Board will prioritize this issue in our work program. The recommendations offered by the Fairfax County Special Education PTA are an excellent starting point for our discussions and you have my commitment that we will engage the community in these discussions.
In his message to the community this week, Superintendent Brabrand made it clear there is no greater responsibility of a school system than the safety and well-being of our students and, as a result of these recent incidents, we have learned that we need to do more. We must and will do everything in our power to protect the children in our care every day, we will ensure the systems are in place to ensure that this sacred covenant with our families is honored and anyone who breaks that covenant of trust will be held accountable for their actions.
December 16, 2019
Statement from Marty Smith, Chief Operating Officer, Fairfax County Public Schools
It is profoundly difficult to be here today to address these disturbing allegations of abuse involving our staff.
There is no greater responsibility of a school system than the safety and well-being of our students and, as a result of this tragic situation, we have learned that we need to do more.
We are deeply saddened by this situation and resolve to do all we can to support our students, their families and others who have been impacted by these events.
While the investigation is still underway, we are committed to doing all we can to prevent similar acts from occurring in the future.
FCPS employees are designated as mandatory reporters of abuse to Child Protective Services and it is a misdemeanor NOT to report. Teachers and staff reviewed content regarding this regulation at staff in-service trainings last month.
FCPS was made aware of the allegations in September and took immediate steps to address the situation, including:
Staff members that were identified were immediately removed from the school and placed on leave for the duration of the investigation. Our human resources team immediately began an administrative investigation concurrently with the criminal investigation.
Experienced special education teachers were assigned to the classroom to replace those on leave and to provide support and instruction to the students.
Families were contacted regarding the staffing changes and additional supports will continue to be available for students and staff.
We want to thank the police department detectives, victim services staff, and others that investigated this situation with great professionalism and sensitivity.
We encourage all students, volunteers and community members who have knowledge or information about possible concerns at other schools, to come forward and share them with police or trusted adults as soon as possible.
At this point, this remains an active investigation and we are cooperating with the police in any way we can. Together, we will continue to work to ensure that our students are learning in a safe environment and where they feel a high degree of trust with the teachers and staff who serve them.
Letter to Freedom Hill Elementary School parents:
Dear Freedom Hill Families and Staff,
You may be hearing news reports about FCPS employees who now face allegations of child abuse at Freedom Hill Elementary School and the failure to properly report the abuse in a timely manner as required under the law.
Our leadership was made aware of these allegations in September and took immediate steps to address the situation, including:
Staff members under investigation were immediately removed from the school and placed on leave for the duration of the investigation. FCPS Human Resources immediately began an administrative investigation concurrently with the police investigation.
Contacting impacted Freedom Hill families regarding the staffing changes. Social work staff and additional supports have been, and will continue to be, available for students and staff
Experienced special education teachers were assigned to the impacted classroom to provide support and instruction to the students.
We are saddened and distressed by these allegations involving our employees. Two of the individuals charged are no longer with FCPS. The third individual is on leave.
I want to apologize to the students and families impacted by these events. There is no greater responsibility of a school system than the safety and well-being of our students and, as a result of these incidents, we have learned that we need to do more. Our teachers and staff have been trained in best practices and legal requirements regarding mandated reporting of suspected abuse. We are in the process of updating the policy and regulation that covers the procedures for reporting cases of suspected child abuse or neglect to ensure that all of us understand our reporting obligations.
Additional details about the Fairfax County Police announcement are available at this link:
Superintendent, Fairfax County Public Schools