Dorchester school abuse fears not reported

The Boston Globe reports that the principal of the King K-8 School in Dorchester never alerted state authorities that a teacher’s aide may have had inappropriate contact with a student last spring.

Massachusetts law requires school employees to report suspicions of child abuse to the state Department of Children and Families, but that law may provide some leeway. According to an informational pamphlet produced by the agency, professionals should immediately report cases when they “have reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of 18 years is suffering from abuse and/or neglect.”

Whether this case rises to that “reasonable cause” standard is the point of a review ordered by School Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. She has asked her staff to determine whether the King principal followed proper protocols in investigating the concern and in deciding not to file a report to the state.

“The principal investigated, and met with parents and staff members and concluded there was not sufficient information for action to be taken,” the Globe reports quoted Johnson, who expects to have the review completed this week.

The teacher’s aide, LaShawn Hill, subsequently transferred to Harbor Pilot Middle School, where he now stands accused of inappropriate conduct with a second student, who is autistic and unable to speak.

Johnson cautioned against hasty judgment against the King school principal. “I know the school leader cares about children and their well-being,” she said. “We want to make sure when we speak about this we are accurate.”

In the allegations that surfaced Monday at the Harbor School, Johnson emphasized that the School Department took swift action, filing reports with both the police and the state. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Families confirmed that it received a report about the Harbor incident and is investigating.

Hill’s involvement with children extends beyond his job in the Boston schools, where he makes roughly $23,000 a year. A state-licensed family day-care center, Because the lil’ Ones Count Too, operates out of his Dorchester home, according to the state Department of Early Education and Care.

In response to the allegations against Hill, the department, which licenses day-care programs, said it was opening an investigation into the center.

Hill, 33, who has been placed on administrative leave from the Harbor School and is facing termination, is expected to appear in court today after police issued a summons on a charge of lewd and lascivious conduct. Yesterday, he pleaded not guilty to five counts of larceny, accused of stealing laptop computers from the Harbor School.