Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools Alberto Carvalho said the school system is reinforcing its guidelines on appropriate guidelines and student-teacher interactions and touting the district’s partnership with a sexual abuse prevention nonprofit organization.
In a statement, sent to the media on Wednesday, Carvalho said the district has developed ethical training and resent existing guidelines to teachers and administrators on their duty to report inappropriate conduct. The announcements come a little more than a month after parents of two Brownville Middle School students whose children were allegedly assaulted by a teacher sued the school.
“As a school system, we are steadfast in our commitment to ensure our schools remain secure and nurturing environments in which students and staff feel safe and comfortable as they engage in teaching and learning,” Carvalho’s statement said. “We will continue to engage and educate our entire workforce regarding School Board policies, statutory requirements, and professional expectations as it relates to appropriate conduct with students, between students, and/or employees.”
There is going to a series of training, titled “Ethics Matter,” includes school-site monthly staff meetings and face-to-face workshops.
Carvalho also touted the district’s partnership with Lauren’s Kids, a sexual abuse prevention nonprofit organization. The campaign, It’s Ok to Tell, promotes reporting inappropriate behavior. It was launched in March 2018. Part of the campaign is a recorded public service announcement featuring the superintendent and children echoing the messaging of speaking out.
M-DCPS made headlines last month when two mothers of students who were sexually assaulted by a Brownsville Middle School teacher sued the district.
Former physical education teacher Wendell Nibbs was arrested in November 2017 and charged with sexual battery of a child.
Nibbs had been accused by at least six different female middle school students of making inappropriate sexual comments, engaging in inappropriate physical contact of a sexual nature, and sending or showing them sexually explicit photographs between 2004 and 2016, according to a lawsuit filed against the school board.
According to court documents, Nibbs sexually harassed the first victim while she was in sixth grade. It progressed into sexual assault then rape while she was in the seventh grade through eighth grade. The incidents took place on school property.
Nibbs is also being accused of “making inappropriate physical contact” with another teacher and hitting students.
“The school board failed to effectively, internally investigate him, which began in 2004,” said one of the attorneys for the victims in the Nibbs case, Aaron Karger. “It then failed to protect students that were harmed at his hands.”
Karger said he wants justice on behalf of his clients and accountability from the school board.
The attorney added the district needs more than just training, but multiple levels of participation to prevent sexual abuse and assault such as Special Investigative Unit officers in schools.
M-DCPS spokesperson Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said the decision to reinforce guidelines is not a response to a specific incident, but a blanket response to the Me Too Movement.
“I think it is general, not only here but nationally and in the state as well,” said Gonzalez-Diego.
Victims of sexual abuse may exhibit changes in behavior, according to mental health expert, Mathew Jean. Signs may include low self-esteem, poor peer relationships or eating habits. Pay close attention to a lack of interest in physical education out of the fear of getting undressed in front of others, Jean told The Miami Times in an earlier interview.
Attorney Karger said he believes that there are more Brownsville Middle victims out there.
“We implore any victims for witnesses who attend Brownsville to come forward,” he said.