State Watch

Virginia teachers charged with assaulting six non-verbal children

Greg Nash

Several teachers from Virginia’s Fairfax Public Schools have been charged with assault after a police investigation revealed that six nonverbal children with learning disabilities had been victimized.

The assaults took place at Freedom Hill Elementary School in Vienna, Va., between April and September by school staff who taught and provided support for students with special needs, ABC News reports.

According to the Fairfax County Police Department, the assault charges range from assault and battery to cruelty and injuries to children.

Child Protective Services was called in September when a teacher noticed bruising on one of the students. An investigation followed.

A grand jury indicted three current and former Fairfax County Public Schools employees after being presented with the evidence on Monday, the network reports.

Cylmeera Gastav, 48, was reportedly charged with one felony count of cruelty and injuries to children and three misdemeanor counts of assault and battery.

Cecilia Maria Benavides, 59, was also charged with one felony count of cruelty and injuries to children and 12 counts of misdemeanor assault and battery, according to ABC.

Former Freedom Hill Elementary School Principal Scott Bloom, 39, was charged with failure to report the abuse, which police say was brought to Bloom’s attention during the 2018-19 school year. By law, Bloom is required to report such incidents, but did not.

“We are saddened and distressed by these allegations involving our employees,” Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand told Freedom Hill Elementary School parents in a letter Monday.

“I want to apologize to the students and families impacted by these events,” he added. “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.”

Tags Child abuse Child Protective Services Fairfax County Police Department Fairfax County Public Schools Virginia Virginia public schools
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