The principal and vice principal of an elementary school in Charles County, Maryland, have been reassigned after parents voiced their disdain with the school's response to a reported sexual assault incident on the playground.
Three fourth-grade girls said a group of boys attacked and sexually assaulted them on the Gale-Bailey Elementary School playground on Oct. 29, parents told News4.
"They told her that they were going to rape her, that they were going to f--- her hard, and then they simulated that over her clothes," the father of one of the girls previously told News4.
A 10-year-old boy was charged with fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault in the incident, school officials said.
In a letter sent to parents on Tuesday, Charles County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Hill said Principal Verniece Rorie and Vice Principal Timothy Rosin were "no longer assigned to Gale-Bailey." It's not clear where they have been reassigned.
"I am assigning Tangela Scales as principal of Gale-Bailey Elementary School effective Tuesday, Dec. 3. Dr. Linda Gill, executive director of schools, is temporarily assigned to the school to support and mentor Ms. Scales as she starts her new role," Hill said in the letter.
"At this time, I feel it is best to change the leadership at Gale-Bailey and provide a new principal who can help the school community - students, staff and parents - begin to move forward from the events of the past few weeks," Hill said.
The girls' parents held a news conference Monday night to draw attention to what they claimed was ongoing mishandling of the incident by school officials and Charles County Public Schools.
They called for the principal and vice principal to step down as well as Hill.
"Parents at the school were not communicated with at all. We were told repeatedly that this was a private incident," said Seth Heisserman, the father of one of the girls involved.
He said it wasn't until the media reported the incident that the school system notified parents.
"Here we stand ... 28 days after our girls were victimized and not once has anybody from the school or anybody for Charles County Public Schools offered any one of our daughters counseling or any kind of help in that regard. I just find that disgusting," Heisserman said.
"None of these girls are back in school because they are afraid to be in school. And what has been the school's response to that? Talk of truancy to the parents," said Kurt Wolfgang, attorney for the parents.
Heisserman said he has withdrawn all three of his children from Charles County Public Schools and is currently homeschooling them.
"At every opportunity to do what's right, they have failed our children," he said.
"I trusted my child with you guys and you failed me. You failed her. You failed all of us," said Senika Hart Butler, the mother of another girl involved.
Butler said her daughter received a death threat at school after the incident. One boy allegedly told her, "You got my friends in trouble and I'm going to beat you and I'm going to have your family killed."
Parents said police are also investigating that threat, but claim that school officials did not inform the school resource officer about the threat until days later.
Charles County Public Schools released a statement Monday night, rebuking the parents' claims.
"Incidents involving children preclude us from providing specific details, and we will always err on the side of protecting our students when faced with decisions about how much detail to share, even when sharing these details would support our actions," the statement read in part.
"Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) strongly disagrees with the statements made by parents of the girls during a press conference this evening. Their characterization of conversations and meetings with school system personnel did not include all pertinent facts. We have addressed their concerns and will continue to take appropriate action based on the facts."
The school system previously said the incident on the playground occurred as the children were playing tag. The district said one of the boys said sexually inappropriate things and made sexually inappropriate motions toward girls.
One boy wrapped his arms around a girl, the district said.
The girls reported the behavior to a teacher, and the boys and girls made written statements about it, the school system said. A school resource officer and school staff started an investigation Oct. 30.
The principal disciplined the students to the level of their involvement per the school system’s code of student conduct, the school system said.
The 10-year-old is not in custody, according to the sheriff’s office.
The parents of the three girls are filing a civil suit against the school system, saying they hope to create change that will prevent something like this happening again.
Read the full letter from Hill below:
I am writing to let you know that I am assigning Tangela Scales as principal of Gale-Bailey Elementary School effective Tuesday, Dec. 3. Dr. Linda Gill, executive director of schools, is temporarily assigned to the school to support and mentor Ms. Scales as she starts her new role.
Ms. Verniece Rorie and Mr. Timothy Rosin are no longer assigned to Gale-Bailey.
Ms. Scales is transferring to Gale-Bailey from her position as vice principal at John Hanson Middle School. She has served as a Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) middle and high school vice principal since 2012. She joined CCPS in 2010 as an instructional resource teacher at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School, and began her teaching career in 2000 as an elementary school teacher. Ms. Scales has her master's in elementary administration and her bachelor's degree in elementary education, both from Cleveland State University in Ohio.
Dr. Gill has served as an executive director of schools since 2013. She started with CCPS in 1990 as an elementary teacher, and served as an elementary vice principal for five years and a principal for 10 years before being promoted to her current position.
There is a continuing investigation into an incident that occurred on the playground on Oct. 29. Incidents involving children preclude us from providing specific details, and we will always err on the side of protecting our students when faced with decisions about how much detail to share. At this time, I feel it is best to change the leadership at Gale-Bailey and provide a new principal who can help the school community - students, staff and parents - begin to move forward from the events of the past few weeks.
Ms. Scales is known for being student-centered and community oriented. She will schedule an open house to meet parents and community members after she starts as principal. Dr. Gill will remain at Gale-Bailey for as long as needed and until we are able to hire a highly qualified vice principal for the school.
Kimberly A. Hill, Ed.D. Superintendent of Schools