Monday, February 05, 2018

Seattle Schools Reports Allegation of Sex Abuse by IA/Sub

 Update: SPS Communications responded and stated that SPD is asking that the district not release any more info on the individual in question so as not to possibly hurt the investigation.  They did confirm that the individual was only hired as an IA and not a sub.

end of update

From West Seattle Blog (thanks to reader Miramac1):

Seattle Public Schools confirms this letter – shared with us by a Denny International Middle School parent – was sent to the school’s families tonight:

Dear Denny Middle School families:

This letter is being sent home to our families to share important information about a serious allegation and our commitment to student safety.

You are receiving this letter because the allegation is against an employee who worked or substituted at your child’s school between 2014-15 and 2017-18 school years. We have no information that anything happened in our school, but we want you to be aware.

This week, we were notified that a student at John Muir Elementary had allegedly been sexually assaulted last year by an instructional assistant. While the alleged assaults took place at John Muir Elementary, where the instructional assistant worked full time last year, the student did not tell their parents about it until last Friday. Thankfully, the family immediately contacted law enforcement.

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) began its investigation over the weekend. When the District received the information on Monday, it took swift action against the alleged perpetrator, Mr. Albert Virachismith, to prevent him from being in contact with students and restricted his access to any district property until the SPD criminal investigation is complete. He is not currently working in any Seattle schools. The District also started its own administrative investigation and is coordinating its efforts with the SPD. Last night, the SPD notified us that Mr. Albert Virachismith was placed under arrest and is in custody.

The SPD advised the District that detectives may need to talk to students as they continue to investigate. SPD Detective Anthony Belgarde has been assigned to this case, and I understand he will contact families directly before interviewing any students.

This is difficult news, and we understand you will want to talk to your child about this case. We want to do everything possible to help the police conduct a thorough investigation. The SPD asks parents to avoid asking leading questions that could interfere with the police investigation. If your student indicates on their own that he or she may have been touched inappropriately, contact Detective Belgarde at anthony.belgarde@seattle.gov.

The district is preparing additional information for our school for how to talk with your children about personal safety. Other resources you can access are the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center at 888-998-6423 and Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress for information and help at 206-744-1600. If you have questions or concerns, please share your contact information with our school’s front office.

According to the King County Jail Register, Albert Virachismith, who is 40 years old, was booked earlier today and is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail, set at a probable-cause hearing earlier today, for investigation of child rape. We don’t have court documents from the hearing so we don’t yet know anything more about the case, aside from this district statement provided by spokesperson Kim Schmanke when we asked her about this tonight:

“Right now, our families are our priority. We are working to notify the families and staff where this individual has worked. These are disturbing allegations, and we are working closely with the Seattle Police Department. As soon as we were notified about the allegations, we barred Mr. Virachismith from taking any district jobs or being on school grounds. We are doing all we can to support a thorough SPD investigation.”

The suspect is due back in court next Tuesday, by which time a decision on charges will likely have been made.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

The actions taken by SPD and SPS seems to have been swift. Do SPS employees and families feel that district policies and practices currently in place are enough? My memory of SPS training was a short video about recognizing and reporting questionable situations (such as a teacher paying special attention to a student, finding excuses to stay after school with the student, appropriate and inappropriate touch, etc.), followed by a quick quiz.

Over the years, we have unfortunately needed to report concerns to school administration, some of which seemed to be dismissed at the time and were eventually brought forth by others and some we hope are simply situations in which staff need to be instructed to be much more careful in their actions so as to avoid any appearance or accusations of misconduct. It sounds as if there was no ambiguity in the recent allegation, but what do you do with a gut feeling that something isn't quite right? No one wants to make false accusations, but you also don't want to miss possible warning signs.

thoughts?

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the district is taking this latest case seriously. Good. Maybe it's because a child made the report. But school staff also need assurances that if they see suspicious behavior and report it, they will be supported by their principals, and not targeted and investigated like they were 7 years ago at another SPS elementary school. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/investigation-lowell-principal-mishandled-claim-of-sex-misconduct/ The culture of retaliation has been a serious problem in SPS.

--Unfond Memories

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, I well remember that Lowell investigation; it was really painful for those trying to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Retaliation can happen to families as well, which makes it less likely that parents or students will speak up, except in the most egregious situations. In the recent case, it sounds as if the report to the police spurred the swift action.

thoughts?

Anonymous said...

There are SOOO many subs, especially sub IAs. IA turnover is high and subs fill in the gaps. Every time a kid or classroom gets a 30 day or 60 day IA, there’s a revolving door of subs - who receive no benefits. Better to hire permanent subs who are known to school staff and who receive adequate benefits to make IA subbing a viable way to make a living. Without that, the district is counting on finding the bottom of the barrel and is encouraging predatory behavior. Hit and run low wage jobs with vulnerable kids, many unable to speak, supervised by a principal who never sees them. What do they think will happen?

sped parent

Anonymous said...

When our SPED student was assaulted (needed medical treatment) by a SPS teacher the school and the district played CYA all the way to the top. We wished we had called SPD but we were warned of retaliation. The teacher was forced to retire the following year after a PIP plan failed.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time believing someone without a single speck of pedophilia or inappropriate sexual behavior would out of the blue assault a student.

In many cases, like with Ed Murry, the system allows a persons pedophilia activities to be removed from someone record . this is very common in juvenile cases.

I believe SPS performs very robust background checks, however there are holes in the system that SPS can not fill.

My guess is someone will come forward out this persons past.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

Sped Parent,

I'm so sorry to hear your child was assaulted.

What needs to change within SPS policies and procedures to better protect our students?

One thing I noticed is that the Title IX page on the SPS website is confusing (intentionally?), because sexual assault is folded in within one of the two forms of sexual harassment.

T

Anonymous said...

Thank you. We found that even though we chose to not report the assault over the fear of retaliation you would think school district employees would have. I say this because the employees are mandatory reporters. The principle, superintendent and director all put the teachers career over the safety of children and not one employee protested

SPED Parent

Elsa said...

The culture of lawlessness and abject denial has been the credo of Muir for several years now and covered all the way up.

K.S. said...

Underlying problem is no one at Muir (or enablers downtown) has seemed to have any commitment to doing the right thing for some time.

Lucia said...

The CYA SSD response makes one wonder which schools the E.D. is "out at" all the time?

Anonymous said...

Sped Parent. You’re are sorely mistaken if you think there’s a “robust background check”. There’s a check for police records performed once. Subs can be subs for years. No more checks. And what about all the conduct (sexual or otherwise) that was overlooked or not reported? Really and truly, they don’t want to know. And I really get a chuckle out of mandatory reporting ideas. More like mandatory NOT reporting. Does anyone really want to take the heat for for reporting colleagues? One principal I know wanted a reporter to talk it out with the colleague. Get real.

staff

Dave said...

The "some are more equal than others" credo at the Palace leads some over-eager types in HR to focus on the wrong staff due to a variety of factors but primarily a very chummy relationship with SEA that allows both to gloss over many incidents. Then, there is a hucksters reliance on PR slogans rather than respect for all. The culture of lawlessness takes it from there until kids talk.

Dave said...

For reasons related to adult retaliation against non-SEA staff, I had occasion to picket outside Muir several times last spring. The Human Resources staff told the Board that my silent actions "caused the Muir staff to coalesce around" an uninvolved student.

It was absurd at the time but the Board was persuaded.


In retrospect, it occurs to me that instead of defensive denial at all levels (including the Deputy Superintendent), Seattle Schools may someday understand the benefit of a little cultural introspection at schools where "smoke" is pouring out but "fire" is stubbornly denied until outside agencies.

Maybe someday but till Then? SNAFU!

My heart goes out to the family as retaliation is the watchword at many schools.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I deleted several comments for several reasons.

1) We do NOT out people here so don't use someone's real name unless they used it themselves.
2) This is not a forum for people bickering about issues others don't know about.
3) No cryptic remarks. If I can't understand what you are talking about, my readers won't.

Cease and desist.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, MW. It was a strange and cryptic interchange.

moving along

Anonymous said...

And I'd also suggest closing last week's Friday Open Thread.

moving along

Anonymous said...

Employee background checks are important. So are proactive principals, or at least principals who will support and believe their school staff and students who report suspicious behavior by other employees. In the Lowell case, both principals involved in the negligent and retaliatory behavior only got reprimanded. Both were permitted to keep their jobs. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/with-investigation-over-at-lowell-elementary-school-aims-to-move-on/ One has since left the district, but the other hasn't. Maybe if the district had taken a stronger stand back then it could have sent a stronger message. Maybe that could have helped prevent new occurrences like the one at Muir. Or at least encouraged more people to speak up. Sad story all round.

--Unfond Memories