Two maintenance employees at a New Jersey elementary school have been suspended pending results of an investigation that is currently underway.
In an incident that has outraged parents and rocked a New Jersey shore community after allegations emerged that two janitors bound and gagged four elementary-age boys in a school boys' bathroom at Gregory Elementary School in Long Branch.
According to The Link News, a local publication, the four students, all under the age of 10, say they were tied up and gagged with yellow caution tape. The Link News had listed this story as "breaking" on Friday after it received an email that noted one of the employees took a photo.
The Link News' Facebook page lists a post that clarifies the initial story. It said one of the boys told a teacher what happened and the principal was notified, who in turn contacted school district officials; and then law enforcement was brought in. Their news Facebook page contains dozens of angry comments from parents and others in response to the posts.
The incident purportedly took place on Thurs., March 1, and the story spread in the community over the weekend after a post emerged on Facebook, reported media sources. Somewhere along the line it was suggested the incident was some kind of "game or prank," reported several media outlets.
A surveillance tape is said to have shown the two custodial employees going inside the bathroom to work on repairs, and the four boys going in afterward, despite the fact the bathrooms should have been closed as the work was being conducted, per district policy.
Michael Salvatore, Superintendent of Schools, released a statement to The Link saying. “After the reports and the review of our security cameras revealed the possibility that the incident took place, parents were notified, as well as, the proper authorities. The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, Long Branch Police Department and Institutional Abuse/DYFS are conducting an investigation regarding the allegations."
CBS News 2 in New York reported the two workers have been suspended with pay, per school district policy, as the incident is investigated.
“It has been expressed to us this was in jest without malice and I hope that’s accurate but in the end, unfortunately, the misconduct leads us to provide some consequences for the employees,” Salvatore said. CBS News reported in a separate report on this story.
“Emotionally there has been some distress. Certainly parents, myself, we’ve lost sleep over this thing and students are the priority,” Salvatore said.
Long Branch School district administrators met with angry parents this morning. Over 100 people reportedly showed up at the Gregory Elementary School demanding answers. At least one parent kept his child home today.
“I’m very shocked that they didn’t immediately send out some notification or have phone calls go out to parents,” Ronald Coleman told CBS News 2. “It was shocking that I had to find out from Facebook.” Coleman elaborated that his son stayed home from school today because he was uncomfortable sending him until the facts emerge.
Richard Incremona of the Monmounth County Prosecutor’s Office said, “The School District has taken internal action and is cooperating with authorities conducting the investigation. There is no evidence to suggest that the incident is sexual in nature.”
This, however, has not eased the minds of several parents who are expressing anger and fear.
“If I can’t go to work and know that my kids are safe, I’ve got a problem with that,” parent Jennifer Rodriguez told CBS.
“I have three kids in the system, I need to worry about my kids and who’s protecting them in the hallways when they go to the bathroom,” parent Molly Guzman said. “You think your son or child is in a safe environment, they’re with them seven hours a day. I don’t feel safe.”
At this time, no arrests have been made. The Long Branch Patch reported Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) released a statement regarding this incident.
News reports said parents will receive a letter today describing the alleged incident and informing them of the investigation that is ongoing. This, however, has not alleviated the anger and disgust, regardless of the outcome if it there was malicious intent on the part of the two employees or if this was a prank gone bad.
"Regardless of their intent, it was a stupid decision they made," said Salvatore, reported NBC News 4 New York.