(NEW YORK) — Five current and former Palm Beach Central High School officials have been arrested and charged with felony failure to report the assault of a minor after not reporting that a 15-year-old student was allegedly assaulted, according to court records.
The Florida school district officials arrested were identified by police as Principal Darren Edgecomb, former behavioral health professional Priscilla Carter, Assistant Principals Daniel Snider and Nereyda Cayado De Garcia, and chorus teacher Scott Houchins.
Edgecomb, Snider, Cayado De Garcia, Houchins and Carter have been reassigned to roles that do not involve student contact, according to a letter to parents and staff from Valerie Zuloaga-Haines, the regional superintendent overseeing schools in the central part of the county.
“The District is currently taking steps to have administrative support in place to ensure a smooth opening ahead of the new school year,” Zuloaga-Haines wrote. “We want to reassure you that we are always dedicated to the safety and wellbeing of our students.”
The 15-year-old girl’s parents ended up reporting the alleged assault to police on Aug. 20, 2021. Despite evidence corroborating the allegations against the suspect, the teen and her parents decided not to pursue charges out of fear the matter would be prolonged in the legal system, inhibiting the victim’s “therapeutic progress,” according to a criminal affidavit filed against Edgecomb.
The case was then closed in October 2021. The incident was then revisited when it was reported to authorities that Palm Beach Central High School was allegedly “criminally negligent” by failing to report the alleged incident of assault to authorities and to report suicidal intentions, as mandated by Florida law, according to court records.
The failure to report resulted in the victim “having significant trauma and lack of confidence in her educators,” according to court records.
According to court documents, Carter was aware the victim attempted suicide while on a school function in Washington, D.C., and it was not her first attempt.
In June 2021, a friend of the victim wrote a letter outlining concerns for the victim, who was allegedly sexually assaulted by two boys, with the victim experiencing anxiety and panic attacks leading to self-harm, according to court records. The student gave this letter to the chorus teacher, Houchins, confident he would see to it that it was “routed properly,” according to court documents.
Houchins, however, who allegedly read the letter, did not report the sexual assaults to the Florida Department of Children and Families as mandated by law, according to court documents.
Houchins told investigators that he gave the letter to someone in the guidance office but couldn’t remember who. The letter ended up with Carter, according to court records.
Carter then called the victim to her office and determined she was not a risk to herself, according to records. Carter allegedly did not ask about the alleged sexual assault reported in the letter. Instead, she only asked the student if she was having suicidal thoughts and whether she felt safe in her relationship. The victim said she did because she was not assaulted by the boy she was dating, according to records.
Carter did not report the alleged sexual assault mentioned in the letter to DCF, according to court records. She later told law enforcement that her superiors at the high school instructed her to stay out of the matter because it was being investigated at a higher level.
In August, the victim reported the alleged sexual assault to Snider, the assistant principal, and provided him with a written statement identifying the person who assaulted her. Snider gave the statement to Edgecomb, but Snider and Edgecomb both did not report the alleged assault to DCF, according to records.
The victim then met again with Carter, who also did not report the alleged assault, according to records.
In a meeting with someone whose name is redacted in court documents, Edgecomb allegedly said he did not contact law enforcement or DCF because he “felt that a sexual assault did not occur, based on his investigation,” despite the victim saying in her statement that she was allegedly assaulted “while she continuously said ‘No,'” according to court documents.
In a meeting with the unnamed person, Cayado De Garcia said she wanted the parents of the victim to report the alleged assault and that the school had not done so because there was no indication that the victim was not safe, according to court records.
In this meeting, Edgecomb allegedly said he had a different interpretation of the events and “we weren’t going by hearsay,” according to court records.
Edgecomb said he would remove the student accused of allegedly assaulting the victim from some school activities, even though the principal did not believe an assault occurred, according to court records.
Carter — who currently works as a case manager at H.L. Johnson Elementary in the same district, according to the district’s directory — has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Houchins, Snider, Edgecomb and Cayado De Garcia have not yet entered pleas. Edgecomb, Snider, Cayado and De Garcia have not yet responded to ABC News’ request for comment. ABC News has been unable to locate current contact information for Houchins and Carter.
Edgecomb and Carter were given a bond of $10,000 each. Cayado De Garcia, Houchins and Snider were given a bond of $3,000 each.
All five were ordered to have no contact with the victim, the witness and co-defendants unless for an administrative matter.
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