Violet LeMar, principal at Harry Kizirian Elementary School has been charged with a misdemeanor for failing to report allegations of sexual abuse of students by a gym teacher. LeMar pleaded not guilty in District Court. The school district has placed her on administrative leave.
The charge stems from a mandatory reporting law adopted just last year, in response to reporting by Rhode Island Public Radio. The law closed an apparent loophole, requiring allegations of abuse in schools to be reported the state Department of Children Youth and Families.
State prosecutors allege that LeMar failed to notify authorities for three days after she became aware of allegations against a gym teacher, James Duffy, who is accused of groping three female students. LeMar also failed to notify the students' parents, who learned of the allegations only after one of the students came forward. The parents then notified police.
On Tuesday, authorities said LeMar notified administrators in the Providence Public School District about the allegations of sexual contact, and they conducted an internal investigation. Police said the investigation included interviews of students without their parents' presence or consent.
A multi-page report from the school's investigation was later provided to police by a school administrator, who police said was concerned by the response. Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said police are continuing to investigate whether others in the school should have reported the allegations.
“So there is evidence that brought us to this charge against the principal, and we will continue to investigate to see if there’s any other people responsible for notifying DCYF,” said Pare.
He added that an investigation by the school raises serious questions.
“Having a prior inquiry by an entity that’s not law enforcement or trained is problematic,” Pare said.
When asked if it had muddied the police investigation, Pare said, “I can’t say it has muddied it, it could create some evidentiary challenges.”
LeMar is just the second person to be charged for failing to report allegations of sexual abuse under the new Rhode Island law. A Cranston school psychologist faces a similar charge in an unrelated case.
In June, Providence police charged the gym teacher, James Duffy, with molesting three students ages 10 and 11, during the most recent school year. Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steve Pare said the investigation is ongoing.
“So we are criminally investigating any behavior by Mr. Duffy,” said Pare. “So as to the extent that it goes back to multiple years, we’re looking at everything.”
Since the allegations that he groped three students became public, Pare said at least one more student has come forward. Duffy had worked at Kizirian Elementary School since 2012, and worked for Providence Public Schools since 1994.