PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island elementary school principal was convicted Monday of a misdemeanor charge of failing to report allegations of sexual abuse against a gym teacher.
Violet LeMar’s conviction is the first since the state’s reporting law was amended in 2016 following revelations of widespread abuse at St. George’s School in Middletown. The law now explicitly requires school workers and volunteers to report allegations of abuse to child welfare authorities within 24 hours.
District Court Judge James Caruolo sentenced LeMar to 50 hours of community service, as well as a year of probation and one year suspended, meaning if she violates certain conditions she could potentially be given a year in jail, according to the attorney general’s office.
Her lawyer moved immediately to appeal to superior court.
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The judge blasted LeMar during the four-day bench trial, calling her testimony and her actions in the case “false and deceptive,” and saying her demeanor on the stand indignant, evasive and “almost orchestrated.”
LeMar, 45, of Somerset, Massachusetts, had testified at trial that she alerted the Providence school department about the allegations made by 5th-grade girls at Harry Kizirian Elementary last spring. She said that based on how the girls described what happened, she didn’t believe the conduct was sexual in nature. She also testified that she was unaware she was required to make a report to the Department of Children, Youth and Families within 24 hours.
The judge said LeMar never told superiors “pertinent information” about what the students had alleged. He also criticized her for her explanation that she did not know the law had been changed in 2016, saying that educators had been required to report such misconduct for years and the only change in 2016 was to make them criminally responsible for failing to do so.
The teacher, James Duffy, has been charged with abusing several girls and has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts, including child molestation and simple assault.
Both Duffy and LeMar are on leave.