I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tate High Alleged Sexual Assault Case--District Followed the Law

Today in "Rick's Blog," the accusation has been made that school district staff violated state law in its handling of an alleged sexual assault on a student at Tate High School.  From today's post on Rick's Blog:

"The moment the school officials were notified by a parent that a possible sexual assault, involving a 14-year-old victim, happened in a classroom at Tate High School, there were required by law to report the incident to Florida Dept. of Children and Families and law enforcement....The school and the district failed to follow the law."

As a district and  a school board--we take our share of criticism in the media for various decisions we make, for property we sell (or do not sell), for how well our students do on tests, or how we stage the flag at our monthly meeting.  We get criticized and second guessed ad nauseum from the peanut gallery and from our local media for many different reasons.  This comes with the territory.

However, if someone alleges that we have violated a law, I take that very seriously.  If involves the well-being of a child, I go to Red Alert.  If things go sideways and issues end up in court--it is the School Board that gets sued.  So, when I read this post in "Rick's Blog" today--I immediately asked our attorney to look into the matter and render a written opinion for the board.

Based upon the what is known about the facts of this incident at this time (and additional information is coming in still) our attorney, Donna Waters, believes that the district did not violate the statutes Rick Outzen cited in his blog post this morning.  Late this afternoon, I met with our attorney and discussed this matter with her at length.  I have her written opinion, and I have her permission to quote from it, however she asked that the memo not be released in its entirety at this time and she has labeled it   "ATTORNEY WORK PRODUCT APPLIES - DO NOT RELEASE WITHOUT CONSULTING WITH GENERAL COUNSEL."

Rick Outzen and his attorney have requested a meeting for this coming Monday morning at 10:00AM to discuss this issue further, at which time Mrs. Waters will undoubtedly challenge these assertions from "Rick's Blog"

The important aspects of Mrs. Waters' rebuke to the allegations from today's Rick's Blog are as follows:

"As with so many issues, the answer depends a great deal on the specific facts involved in the incident. §39.201, F.S. provides that:  Any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare, as defined in this chapter, or that a child is in need of supervision and care … shall report such knowledge or suspicion to [DCF]. School personnel are required to give their names when making such reports, and thus can be prosecuted for failing to make a report when required. If a report is not required by law, failing to report an incident does not violate the law.
Reports are required when the following elements are met:
 1.  “A person knows or reasonably should suspect” – Actual knowledge is not required. If a reasonable person who has this person’s knowledge of the facts would suspect abuse or neglect, the report must be made.

2.  “That a child” – For this section to apply, the alleged victim of abuse or neglect must be under the age of 18.

3.  “Is abused, abandoned or neglected” – the law gives specific definitions, but in general, reporters can rely on a reasonable person’s understanding of these terms.

4.  “By a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare.” – The alleged perpetrator must be a parent, caregiver or other person who has legal responsibility for the child’s welfare.

Element 4 is commonly misunderstood by the public. An assault by one child upon another is not normally a child abuse situation which must be reported to DCF. Reporting would be mandatory only if the perpetrator is a babysitter or older relative who has been left in charge of the victim’s welfare.

...This analysis does not mean that a perpetrator is not criminally liable for a child-on-child offense.  § 800.04, F.S. makes it a second degree felony for any person to engage in sexual activity with a person between the ages of 12 and 16...The statute provides that neither consent, prior sexual experience of the victim nor the offender’s ignorance as to the victim’s age are defenses to the crime."


Anonymous said...

Everybody knows that government attorneys serve but one function, and that is to remove specific intent from the actions of elected public other words, Gary, Waters ain't foolin nobody.

Suggest you read the Statute yourself.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anonymous--you have it wrong. Mrs. Waters' opinion was right, the district did not violate state law, and Rick's Blog posted a "left handed" admission of this today on his blog

So try to get your facts right, why don't you?

And by the way, I'm Jeff.

don'tlike rick said...

So, by that definition the teacher should be charged with the crime. Her neglect endangered the children.
In all seriousness, is there a method in place to have a quasi independent body investigate the incident on behalf of the school board?
If the teacher is found negligent can she be fired or do tenure rules prevent it? Many people hope the ECS board can get this right and repair some of the damage.
Many thanks for your efforts.

Anonymous said...

Rick outzen is an imbecile. His blog is weak and his attcks on the escambia schools district shows he must have some personal issue with Malcolm thomas. Rick needs to have the guts to ask the sheriff why his school sheriff did not report the incident on march 2 the same day it was reported to the resource officer. Rick must be afraid of mogan. What a whimp.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anon 1:40-Rick Outzen and I do not agree on everything, but I would not characterize him as an imbecile. I am disappointed in the way he is rushing to blame the district for the troubles with this investigation, but I won't attack him personally because of this. Although, he lets his posters rip us to shreds on his blog.

dontlike rick said...

About Rick O's posters...
If the Escambia County school system didn't appear so incompetent and easy bait the posters would tear you to shreds. Why do you think the population in
Escambia county is declining? No one wants to live where the school system is poor.
Question: Are efforts going to be made to hold someone in the school administration responsible for the Tate travesty?

Anonymous said...

""Anonymous--you have it wrong. Mrs. Waters' opinion was right, the district did not violate state law, and Rick's Blog posted a "left handed" admission of this today on his blog

So try to get your facts right, why don't you?

And by the way, I'm Jeff. ""

a "left handled admission"? Facts? Pahleeze..... An admission that you should have reported the crime, and that you will seek anything and everything so that you do not have to take responsibility for not reporting it? So the law rick quoted says that it should have been reported to DCF as child abuse, what about the fact it should have been reported because it was a CRIME? Your administrator himself stated that they did not understand how to "investigate" and needed more training, here’s a thought, why not lets the teachers and school Teach, and the law enforcement do the investigations, you are not Agatha Christy, you are Not Batman, and surely you are not Sherlock Holmes.

What about the fact that you totally disregarded this child safety and assumed (without any physical evidence) that she was a willing participant? Based on your keen Batman Detective Skills.

What about the fact that she was victimized further by your suspending her from school? What about the FACT that you and your "administrators" were in damage control mode and were told not to speak to the investigators, to cover YOUR OWN BUTTS? Heck you guys are even censoring the information people using School computers can get about this incident!!! Why has there been entries into the school board computer system to Block Ricks Blog? IS that even legal for you to do so?

I see a lot of finger pointing and grandstanding from you in particular. What would you do if this was your child? You have no morals and should be removed immediately from our children's School Board, along with the rest of your crooked cohorts. You have HELPED scar this your child for the rest of her life. Good job. I really don't see how you can be a moral person and still look yourself in the mirror after these actions.

Jeff Bergosh said...


You can ignorantly chose to hurl insults at me that are baseless and boorish--or--you can come to the special meeting of the school board on Thursday, April 14th at 3PM at the hall center, room 160 at which time this entire episode will be discussed and we will have speakers from the relevant state agencies to discuss procedures and protocol for these sorts of incidents and how they should be handled going forward.

Anonymous said...

Please explain how I'm "Ignorantly hurling baseless insults" at you. Your actions demonstrate my observations...If the shoe fits....

You created this blog to "inform" the parents and students you represent, I am one of these people, why if I speak out about your actions representing ME am I "ignorant" and " "hurling baseless insults"?

I voted for you ya know, but I am mad as hell at this whole incident and feel betrayed by you and the rest of these "officials" Heck I even stood up for you during the "godzilla" crap you pulled.

Why not you just answer my questions asked here? Namely, where is the report that was filed in this "luncheon meeting"?
Why not post it up here?

Why has the school board censored information on this incident, namely the blocking of Ricks Blog from all school/Administrative computers ? Why, if nothing was done wrong, would you enact any censoring rules to the computer system designed to intercept requests for information on this incident?

why did the school figure they were better equipped then law enforcement in "investigating" this crime?

the difference between you and I, is that I am outraged and only have the power to speak out, as a citizen, you on the other hand have the ability for direct action to effect change, instead, you grandstand and finger point and swear behind administrators you hardly know.....use your position for the betterment of the system, and by extension, our children's education, and not the betterment of yourself, your wallet, and your "friends".

Its great to have a focus group now, to determine improvement on protocol in these situations moving forward, and I applaud you for taking part in that discussion. (oh and I'll be there dont worry :) ) but you must take action as well for the bad judgment calls that were made and are continuing to be made concerning this incident. and finally, take responsibility for your screw-ups and make a statement ensuring us parents that we weren't "ignorant" when we voted for you.

Anonymous said...

Your inability to respond to these questions on your own blog are telling of your political style, to avoid the hard questions and show us a tour of "global Learning Academy" with some pretty pictures.

Your "Godzilla" episode shows us as well that you have no qualms with lying, and are actually very adept at it.

and this Rape on school grounds shows us your uncaring attitude and lack of moralistic compass when it comes to our children, their protection and education, as well as your idea of responsibility.

then to follow it up with a rant of you whining because its suggested your pay may be eliminated for your "service" to the School Board....

that's the most telling sign of all concerning where your loyalties lie.