Fontanelle Principal Charged with Child Abuse & Neglect
On Friday, Omaha police arrested Fontenelle Elementary School principal Eric Nelson on suspicion of felony child abuse and neglect for allegedly failing to report suspected child sex abuse by a teacher.
Former first-grade teacher Gregory Sedlacek was arrested in December and charged with various sex offenses. He is accused of sexually abusing six students at the school.
Police say that teachers told Nelson about suspicious behavior by Sedlacek involving students at recess. However, prosecutors say that Nelson failed to report the suspected abuse. The assistant principal contacted law enforcement the next day to report it.
School officials are legally required to contact authorities about suspected child abuse immediately.
OPS Criticized for Handling of 2011 Abuse Allegations at Nathan Hale Middle School
The Omaha Public Schools district was also criticized in 2011 for handling allegations of sexual abuse at Nathan Hale Middle School with an internal investigation instead of contacting the police.
A Nathan Hale student reported that teacher Shad Knutson had sexually abused her and a total of four students came forward with allegations of sexual gestures, advances, and abuse. OPS officials took no action against the teacher and failed to contact the police. A parent eventually contacted Omaha’s child welfare division and reported the alleged abuse.
Legal Recourse for School Sex Abuse Victims and Their Families
Attorney contributor Brian Ken of AbuseGuardian.com is a former sex crimes prosecutor who now represents sexual abuse survivors in civil lawsuits. Here is some insight from Brian on how families affected by abuse in schools can find justice:
No parent should have to worry about the safety of their children while they’re at school. While most of our teachers, coaches, and other school employees are trustworthy people, our schools also must be aware of the fact that sexual predators often seek out positions in fields that involve working with children. This means that new employees must be thoroughly screened to make sure they don’t have a history of sexual misconduct or other crimes. Additionally, our schools must take preventative measures against abuse and officials and staff must report any suspected abuse to the authorities immediately.
When allegations arise that a teacher has abused students, there are several concerns to address. The teacher must be removed from the school, investigated, and prosecuted. The victims, along with other students and families, must be provided with the support they deserve. And finally, the school must be held accountable if their negligence contributed to the abuse – such as failing to report the abuse and allowing the teacher to continue working with children.
In cases that involve negligence, the victims and their families may have grounds for a lawsuit.
If you believe your child has been sexually abused by a teacher, coach, or another school employee, we understand how traumatic this time is for your family. We want to help you find justice. You can learn more about your family’s legal options by contacting one of our experienced sexual abuse survivors attorneys.