Could a little boy who, police say, was being kept in a cage been rescued sooner if school staff spoke up about it?
This is a story the 8 News NOW I-Team first broke Friday
The I-Team has learned has learned a school principal and special needs teacher are under investigation. By law, they are mandatory reporters. What that means, is if they suspect child abuse or neglect, they need to report it so authorities can make sure a child isn’t in danger.
According to court records, a special needs teacher visited her student’s home and noticed a cage for the 4-year-old boy.
She said, it reminded her of something used for a dangerous animal. She told her principal and they did not tell authorities because they claimed they couldn’t articulate physical abuse. That was in late 2015.
A year later, police responded to the home for family disturbance, they say they saw that little boy in the cage and rescued him.
The I-Team has learned the school is Red Rock Elementary near Jones Boulevard and Alta Drive. At the time, the principal was Stephanie Wong. According to a spokesman, she is still the principal there.
The I-Team does not have the name of the special needs teacher.
But court records state that all of the staff who had responded to the home discussed their concerns that the little boy was spending all of his time confined in the enclosure — meaning a homemade cage.
His mother Sheila Reyes and stepfather Juan Gonzales-Orozco face child abuse and neglect charges. His mother was in court this week.
The I-Team has learned from the Clark County District Attorney other people could be held accountable in this case for failure to report.
“You know that’s an active case and it is still under investigation,” said District Attorney Steve Wolfson. “I’ve been informed that those facts are being investigated, but I have to rely on law enforcement to complete their investigation and if they feel there is sufficient evidence to forward it over to us for review.”
Failure to report is a misdemeanor the first time. The penalty is up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If a person is convicted twice, it’s a gross misdemeanor and the penalty can double.
It is not unusual to hear about child deaths and other child abuse cases where Child Protective Service workers or doctors, again all mandatory reporters, did not take action. However, there haven’t been many prosecutions for failing to report.
I-Team Reporter Vanessa Murphy: “Do you think it’s time to pursue this to send a message since we see it keeps happening?”
District Attorney Steve Wolfson: “I’m not sure if just my office filing charges is enough. Certainly if we file charges, it helps in sending a message, but I think even more so educating all of these varieties and groups of persons, how important is to report. It’s better to report and be safe than not to report and perhaps have a child suffer even more severe consequences.”
According to a pediatrician, the boy is doing much better and making tremendous strides after he was removed from the home. However, he was returned to his parents a few months later.
The mother’s attorney said they dealt with the issue through family court. The judge on the now criminal case expressed concern.
The Clark County School District is acknowledging the police investigation. A spokeswoman sent the following statement to the I-Team:
“CCSD takes our role as mandatory reporters of child abuse very seriously. Now that we are aware of these allegations, we have begun to look into the concerns. We are hearing conflicting information and will look into the matter further.”
Also, in addition to the law, it is district policy for school staff to report suspected child abuse and neglect. Read district policy.