Middle school teacher pleads not guilty to failing to report alleged sexual activity

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Suspended Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School teacher Melissa Rodriguez pleaded not guilty Monday in New London Superior Court to charges that she failed to carry out her legal duties as a mandated reporter.

Rodriguez, 35, of Griswold, is one of three New London school employees arrested in an ongoing investigation into alleged sexual activity at the middle school. She was charged May 28 with failure to report abuse, neglect or injury to a child or imminent risk of serious harm to a child by a mandated reporter.

She is free on a $10,000 bond and has hired defense attorney Brian Dumeer. Her next court date is Aug. 7.

The arrest warrant detailing the allegations against Rodriguez is sealed through July 22. Prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman said she may be filing a motion to continue sealing it after that date due to the investigation.

Rodriguez worked in the same school where former school behavioral specialist Corriche Gaskin, 35, allegedly sexually assaulted a middle school student. Gaskin also is charged with recording and sharing his homemade, sexually explicit cellphone videos. At least some of the crimes are alleged to have occurred in 2017.

Rodriguez and fellow teacher Laquana Sheppard were both placed on paid administrative leave by Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie on May 3 "pending the outcome of an internal investigation." They were told not to report to work until further notice, not to discuss the investigation with anyone and not to access district computer systems or programs while on leave.

Along with Gaskin and Rodriguez, police have arrested middle school paraprofessional Jevon Elmore, 25, as part of an expanded investigation focused on employees in the school district. Elmore, also a high school track coach, is charged with second-degree sexual assault.

Gaskin remains incarcerated and is due back in court Aug. 1. Elmore is free on a $150,000 bond and is scheduled to return to court on Thursday.

Several other teachers and administrators remain suspended as New London police continue their investigation. The school district also has referred some allegations against employees to state Department of Children and Families for further investigation.

The state Office of the Child Advocate is reviewing "child welfare concerns" in New London schools.

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