Another New London school employee charged with sexual assault
New London — Police arrested a second New London school employee on sexual assault charges Thursday: a paraprofessional who is also a track coach.
Jevon Elmore, 25, of 905 Bank St. was arrested on a warrant and charged with second-degree sexual assault. Details of the allegations against him remain sealed by a court order.
The arrest of Elmore, who was hired by the district in September, is part of an expanded and ongoing investigation by New London police stemming from the arrest of former middle school climate specialist Corriche Gaskin.
Gaskin, 35, remains held in prison facing a host of felony charges related to the alleged sexual assault of a middle school student and for allegedly recording and showing off homemade sexually explicit videos on his cellphone during the 2016-17 school year.
Police said a witness identified three people in cellphone videos performing oral sex on Gaskin — two of them adult staff at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School and the third female a student who was in eighth grade at the time.
Gaskin’s arrest and the allegations that he had sexual encounters with colleagues in the middle school have sent shockwaves through the school community, along with some finger-pointing.
Separate from the police investigation and the school district's own internal review, Mayor Michael Passero and Human Services Director Jeanne Milstein are meeting with state Child Advocate Sarah Eagan next week to request an independent outside review of the school district. Milstein served as the child advocate for more than a decade.
In a message sent to Eagan earlier this month, Milstein said the review “is necessary in order to ensure transparency and accountability.”
“The safety and well-being of children in the New London School System is a priority for Mayor Passero. He wants to understand what failures occurred and most importantly, is determined to implement policies, procedures and practices that will prevent similar failures in the future,” Milstein wrote.
The Office of the Child Advocate "monitors and evaluates public and private agencies that are charged with the protection of children, and reviews state agency policies and procedures to ensure they protect children's rights and promote their best interest." The office performed a monthslong review of the Hartford school district following the 2016 arrest of a Hartford school employee for sending explicit texts to a 13-year-old and word that school employees knew about it but never reported it.
“The OCA’s investigation led to profound and urgent concerns regarding the school district’s historical lack of compliance with state laws designed to ensure adequate protection and safety for children ...” the OCA report states.
Passero said Thursday that he’s assigned Milstein to coordinate with the child advocate.
Several school employees have become targets of claims of misconduct following public forums held by the district. Parents were urged at those forums to report misconduct by teachers with students to the authorities, school officials and state Department of Children and Families.
"I just can't wait to see the scope of the investigation made public, because I want to be able to make some kind of sense of these terrible incidents," said Jefferey Hart, vice president of the Board of Education, on Thursday.
School Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie suspended Elmore on May 10, the same day as two of those forums. He was barred from entering school grounds.
“An incident was reported to the Human Resources Office on Friday, May 10, 2019, alleging you have interacted inappropriately with a student(s). The matter was reported to the Department of Children and Families for further inquiry,” states a letter to Elmore from Taryn R. Bonner, the school district’s human resources director.
The district, three days later, suspended Jason Pellum, a 24-year-old long-term substitute teacher and assistant basketball coach hired within a week of Elmore. Both are New London High School graduates and opened a gym together in the city with two other New London High School grads in 2018.
On May 10, someone had reported an allegation of inappropriate interaction between Pellum and a student to DCF. There are no pending criminal charges against Pellum.
Among the other employees placed on paid administrative leave is band director and music teacher Jonathan Gworek. He was placed on leave on May 2 for a “concern” reported to the district and DCF regarding his conduct with a student.
Employees on leave in what the district considers to be a direct connection to Gaskin are middle school STEM Director Lawrence Washington and Alison Burdick, director of the International Education magnet pathway at the middle school. Teachers Melissa Rodriguez and Laquana Sheppard also were placed on leave. Gaskin since has been fired.
Burdick, placed on leave for “possible dissemination of confidential information,” since has filed suit against school district employees and the school board claiming, in part, defamation.
Superintendent Ritchie, in a statement, said "students remain at the forefront of our work as we forge through these challenging times." She called Thursday's arrest "extremely concerning for all," and said the district would continue to work with DCF and police on the ongoing investigation.
"We are home to 3,800 students and 660 employees. It is expected that each adult working in the field of education displays the highest moral, ethical and professional standards. If and when any allegation regarding student safety comes forward, the district immediately places the accused staff member on leave, notifies the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and awaits the results of a complete investigation."
Elmore remains held in lieu of a $150,000 bond and is scheduled for arraignment Friday in New London Superior Court. It was not immediately clear if he has an attorney.
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