Rhode Island

NewsReel: Voices of Change, a Haven for Teen Moms, and Sexual Molestation Charges Filed Against Elementary PE Teacher

First, the Good News

1. Read about these leaders who are working to reshape the education landscape in Little Rhody. I am lucky enough to know them personally so I’m extra happy to see their work highlighted here. The mom quoted in the piece speaks for many parents (and I was lucky enough to teach her oldest daughter a few short years ago.)

Photo credit: Teach for America

“Rhode Island is literally the small but mighty state in a lot of ways,” says Colarusso. “To see the diversity play in and out of the community we serve is inspiring. We are truly challenging the status quo.”

“We loved their philosophy on educating college-bound scholars, so we applied,” says Delgado. “Our vision was always for the girls to go to college, to be professionals, and do a little better than the previous generation.”

Inspired by the teachers who helped him succeed and the inequity he witnessed growing up, Martí joined the corps after college and spent two years teaching math in Philadelphia. From there, he coached future educators at Teach For America for three years, which fueled his next calling. As Martí says, “I realized I wanted my own school in the state I grew up in: Rhode Island.”

2. Imagine being a pregnant teen. Most of us either can’t or don’t remember having a school nearby that was designed for kids dealing with pregnancy and parenting while still in high school. Nowell Leadership Academy has changed that for Rhode Island teens and this week’s Providence Journal shares the story of what that really means for high school students who are also mothers. The young mom featured in the piece calls it a “second change.”

On her first day at Nowell, teachers and staff made her feel welcome. More importantly, everyone looked like her. There was no shame in being pregnant.

Olverson began building relationships with her teachers. With one in particular, she could tell her anything. They talked about fun stuff, too — music and food.

 On March 8, she had a baby girl, Na’omi, who is now three months old.

Olverson took a couple of months off. But her education didn’t stop. The school nurse, Judith Russell, visited her at home.

And Now, the Bad news (and hopefully a call to action)

3. It was only a short few months ago when we were learning about a science teacher at Cranston West High School arrested on 12 counts of sexual misconduct with students and subsequently, a school psychologist (gasp!) arrested for his failure to report it.

This week we are learning about another failure to report within the Providence Public Schools, this time at an elementary school. A PE teacher there has been arrested for touching and “grinding” on four 11 year old girls. And if that’s not awful enough, school officials apparently failed to follow mandatory reporting laws and notify DCYF. Dan McGowan, WPRI reporter, has been updating the story as more details are released.

Officials at a Providence elementary school failed to notify the R.I. Department of Children Youth & Families (DCYF) about allegations that a gym teacher was molesting students in the weeks before he was arrested, the school department confirmed Thursday.

During one of the interviews, an alleged victims said Duffy “was touching me and my best friends.” She said the incident occurred in gym class, with Duffy touching her chest. She said his body rubbed against her back and told the interviewer “I was scared.”

Another girl claimed Duffy touched the side of her chest and began to “grind” on the back of her body with his body. A third girl also claimed Duffy touched her chest while she was doing jumping jacks.

Duffy ended up being charged two counts of second-degree molestation against two of the girls and one count of molesting another girl.

Duffy has been ordered to have no contact with the three victims or anyone under the age of 16. In addition, the court ordered Duffy to surrender his passport and sign an order waiving extradition, Kempe said.

Read McGowan’s full report here. 

Other stories I’ve written about the issue of sexual abuse in schools:

Hollywood, We Need a ‘Spotlight 2’ Exposing the Abuse in Our Schools

Time for a Spotlight on Sexual Abuse in our Schools and the Failures to Report It

We Can’t Normalize Romance (or Sex) Between Teachers and Students. Period.

And with that, I send a shout out and a thank you to S.E.S.A.M.E. which stands for Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct, and Exploitation. They are working hard on this very uncomfortable and tragic issue every single day. To learn more about them, click here.



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