5 employees at Babylon Union Free School District reassigned following allegations of sexual abuse
Five employees in the Babylon Union Free School District have been reassigned in a 24-hour span following new allegations of sexual abuse.
Hundreds of students walked out after first period Tuesday and said they would not be going back in an effort to show support for alleged victims of sexual abuse who've come forward.
The students say they want to see change happen after hearing allegation after allegation about some of their teachers and even coaches.
"You should feel safe at a school. Not like, endangered by your teachers," said Emily Campoverde, 10th grader.
Students who participated in the walkout told News 12 that they are upset and angry about disturbing allegations made against a teacher several weeks ago. That teacher was the first of six employees in the district to be reassigned.
The district would not say which employees were reassigned, citing privacy reasons.
On Monday evening, many said they watched the Board of Education meeting live on Instagram where former students shared stories of sexual abuse from when they roamed the halls of Babylon High School.
The district's superintendent released a statement saying in part: "Based on verbal allegations made public at last night's Board of Education meeting, this morning the district reassigned four employees so we may conduct investigations surrounding these claims. In addition, another employee was reassigned yesterday immediately after the district received a tip of another allegation. All individuals will remain reassigned to home pending the outcome of their investigations," adding that "the district does not tolerate abuse of any kind, takes all allegations very seriously and is committed to acting upon each and every claim we receive."
The superintendent's office says the employees have been removed from the classroom and buildings. They are not providing live instruction from home but are getting paid.
The meeting came after a 2011 graduate, Brittany Rohl, shared her story exclusively with News 12. Rohl said she was groomed and abused by her track coach at 16 and the school did nothing to stop it.
"What I hope to come out of this still is awareness, especially for parents," Rohl says. "Because I still don't have any hope that the school board is going to act appropriately and I'm hoping that by escalating this and taking it up to higher channels in the media and through the law that we can work towards that."
Darcy Bennet says she thought it was normal for teachers to hit on her after an experience she had while at Babylon Junior-Senior High School with her tennis coach.
"He came to my home, spoke to my mom for a little bit, found me alone, ended up pulling me into a hug and holding me there," Bennet says. "And then he backed up a little bit, moved away a little bit and tried to kiss me."
Laura Ahearn, of Parents for Megan's Law, is planning to work with the alumni who spoke out.
"I'm not sure what was reported, I'm not sure what was investigated, but what I am sure is that there is a group of girls who feel that they were reporting a victimization," Ahearn says. "Whether it was sexual victimization and hand-on or sexual harassment…it went completely ignored and no action was taken."
The district said it has hired outside special counsel to investigate the claims and is going to engage in preventative training.
A parent and attorney from the district sent a letter to the state attorney general's office Tuesday asking for an impartial investigator to look into what they call a "culture of abuse and protection of abusers."
The letter went on to say, "it has destroyed young lives and the trust a community has in its educational system."
Michael Cohen, a former Brentwood superintendent, says Babylon's top administrators need to be sent home if they were in charge when any misconduct occurred.
"It need to be fully and completely investigated," Cohen says. "What did people do to prevent these kids of things from occurring? Or what didn't they do?"
Former students who say they were abused say it's not enough, as do the students who walked out.
"I hope a lot more people are braver to speak out and that they do better background checks, and check in with the teachers every so often," said Miles Walsh, 11th grader.
Students said they were not aware of any repercussions they could face if they walked out on Tuesday.