Friday, October 10, 2008

Principal Mindy Garber - Charged with failing to report child sexual abuse

The principal at Hugh K. Cassell Elementary School has been charged with a misdemeanor after reportedly failing to notify authorities of a child sexual abuse allegation against a county school bus driver in April, according to the superintendent of Augusta County Public Schools.

Principal Mindy Garber is charged under a Virginia statute that states a school employee, public or private, must report any child abuse allegation within 72 hours.

Superintendent Gary McQuain said the issue came to light about three weeks ago when a county bus driver was under investigation by the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office on an allegation he inappropriately touched a student several years ago. It was during the investigation that Garber reported the earlier incident to officials, McQuain said.

In April, according to McQuain, there was an allegation that the same bus driver inappropriately touched a school student. The case, unrelated to the recent sheriff’s investigation, prompted Garber to speak with the alleged victim’s mother. Together, Garber and the mother of the child concluded there was no wrongdoing on the bus driver’s part, but nobody in the school system or Child Protective Services was notified.

“There are no options. She should have called,” McQuain said.

Garber, in her third year as principal at Cassell, has reported child abuse allegations in the past, McQuain said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time she called. This time she didn’t.”

Garber remains at the helm of the school while the court case plays out, and McQuain had nothing but praise for the principal.

“She’s a very, very good principal, and she defends these kids with all her heart,” he said.

As media reports surfaced today about the misdemeanor charge against Garber, McQuain said he expected some irate phone calls from parents, but none came.

“That speaks volumes,” he said.

According to the statute under which Garber was charged, she faces the possibility of a $500 fine.

The school bus driver was not charged by sheriff’s investigators but was cited by CPS, McQuain said. His position has since been terminated.

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