Friday, February 20, 2009

Employees at Louisiana School for the Deaf investigated for sex scandal

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — An investigation into allegations of inappropriate contact has led to a teacher and supervisor at the Louisiana School for the Deaf being placed on leave.

The alleged incidents of inappropriate touching or physical contact between the teacher and students were reported earlier this month by students during a group discussion with peers and a member of the school's staff, State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek said Wednesday.

The identities of the teacher and supervisor were withheld. Both are on paid leave pending further investigation, Pastorek said.

"Clearly, the possibility that inappropriate behavior has occurred is unfortunate, and this is a serious matter that we will treat with the greatest sense of care," he said. "But it does give me some reassurance that these incidents were reported by students. ... That tells me these students, and hopefully all of our students, expect to be treated with the respect they deserve and that they know they will be supported and protected."

The school was briefly closed last year and security revamped after accusations of rape and sexual misconduct.

The school reopened in November.

Pastorek had temporarily closed the school in October after charges that a 16-year-old student with a history of behavioral problems raped a 6-year-old student on a school bus.

It was the latest in a string of complaints about sexual misconduct at the school, which has more than 190 students from elementary school through high school on its Baton Rouge campus, many of whom live in a campus dormitory during the week.

A lawsuit recently was filed against the state and the deaf school accusing two male students of repeatedly molesting a female student. In addition, at least five people — including three current or former teachers — were arrested between November 2007 and April 2008, accused of indecent behavior with students.

While the deaf school was closed, the state added new security cameras, retrained security guards and installed an electronic-monitoring system to track dormitory staff. Monitoring on the school buses that take students home on weekends also was increased, according to education department officials.

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