Manatee County, Florida - The staff and students at Imagine Charter School in Manatee County hope the school day will go back to normal now that the State Attorney's Office will not charge the principal with failure to report a possible case of child abuse. The question now is did the abuse ever happen?
More than a dozen parents showed up for a press conference at Imagine Charter School Monday morning, many in support of Principal Selenia Quinones.
"I feel she did everything she should have done," said Sheryl Dixon, whose child attends Imagine.
Principal Quinones tried to reassure parents. She said, "I want to continue my open door policy, my commitment. Let the community know I'm still here to support them and their kids. Their children, as I've told them in the past, when they are at school they are my babies ... their safety is my number one priority."
But at least two parents question Quinones' commitment. In April, school officials say they investigated a case of 4-year-old boys exposing themselves to each other. Then, later in July, a parent said her son witnessed 4-year-old boys having oral sex with each other at school. The reporting parent, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she told Quinones in July during a 14-minute-long phone conversation, but said the principal did nothing about it.
"I'm appalled that was her staff member's son. She did nothing. She protected the image of the school. She thought of her job instead of protecting the children of Imagine," said the reporting parent.
Speaking exclusively to 10 News from her attorney's office, the reporting parent said in October she then told the parent of one of the 4-year-old victims. That parent reported the incident to sheriff's deputies.
"The first time we heard of anything about oral sex is when detectives came to us," said Shawn Arnold, an attorney representing Imagine Charter School.
Arnold said the school's internal investigation showed 10 inconsistencies with the reporting parent's story, saying there is no record she told the principal nor that the abuse ever occurred.
10 News asked, "You are saying that it never..."
Arnold said, "False."
10 News asked, "What are you saying, she's lying? She made this up?"
Arnold says, "We're saying it never happened."
The reporting parent's response, "Why would a parent make up these facts? I have no motive to lie, but she has motive."
The State Attorney's memo released on Friday said, "The two boys involved in the oral sex had forensic interviews with the child protection team. It was disclosed that five boys were involved in oral sex."
Some parents question the children's honesty. "I still think it's by case of he said, she said. We'll never really get to the bottom of it. I'd like to see this put to rest for the sake of the children involved," said Dixon. "In my mind, I find it hard to believe 4-5 year olds doing that."
According to The Department of Children and Families, the case has been investigated. DCF spokesperson Michelle Glady tells 10 News, "DCF has investigated and the children are receiving the appropriate services."
The reporting parent and the victim's parents are considering a civil law suit against the school. Damien Mallard, the attorney representing both parents, said he is looking at possible negligence, liable and slander.
Manatee County Sheriff officials say due to the age of the boys they will not investigating this case any further.
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