The principal and an assistant principal of Stamford High School were charged Thursday with failing to report an alleged sexual relationship between an English teacher and a male student – possibly allowing the affair to continue for another six months.
The school district has suspended Principal Donna Valentine and Assistant Principal Roth Nordin until “all the facts are known.”
Police Chief Jon Fontneau said his department’s investigation into the school’s handling of the incident is ongoing and open.
According to police, Valentine and Nordin’s handling of an alleged affair between English teacher Dannielle Watkins and a student in the school violated the state’s child-abuse reporting laws. Connecticut law requires school staff and officials to report allegations of abuse, neglect and endangerment to either law enforcement or the state Department of Children and Families within 12 hours of learning of the allegations. State law also requires that parents be notified of such allegations and investigations.
In a prepared statement, schools Superintendent Winifred Hamilton said student safety and security is the district’s top priority.
“An arrest of this nature is unprecedented in our district, and until all of the facts are known, the administrators in question will be placed on administrative leave without prejudice, as is the standard procedure when such allegations are made,” Hamilton said. “Once all the facts are known, we will take the opportunity to look closely at our practices and training to determine whether we should make changes in our processes going forward.”
Police launched the investigation into Watkins in June after an 18-year-old student told them his English teacher had threatened to fail him in her class if he did not continue to have sexual relations with her.
He said he had numerous sexual encounters with her since September 2013.
According to police, it appears Valentine and Nordin may have known about the allegations as early as December, and Fontneau said they appeared to have conducted their own internal investigation.
He said he did not know the results of their findings, but they were legally required to report the incident.
“During the course of this investigation, it appeared that several independent sources made the allegations aware to the SHS administration as early as December 2013,” police reported Thursday. “The administration conducted an independent investigation without notifying Department of Children and Families.”
The student told police the encounters occurred in her car during school hours, though not on school grounds. He said Watkins provided him and a friend with marijuana and they would smoke it on and off school grounds during school hours.
Police said they later found more than 2,000 text messages, naked pictures of Watkins and records of hundreds of calls between her and the student. They said they believe the sexual activity and drug use occurred as frequently as several times a week throughout the school year.
They arrested the teacher in July for allegedly having a sexual relationship with the 18-year-old student and also supplying the student and another minor with marijuana.
As reported by Stamford Advocate