Pamela Devine, Cathy Schwartz, and Mirtha Fernandez, all Davie, Florida teachers, are accused of failing to act after reading an essay in which a 15-year-old girl with a learning disability stated that she had been raped by her boyfriend, news sources report. Devine, 54, of Coconut Creek, Schwartz, 35, of Tamarac, and Fernandez, 47, of Weston, are all charged with failing to report the rape. The press did not say whether they were arrested or, if so, if they qualified for bail bond. It is not yet known whether any of the defendants have hired a defense lawyer.
According to reports, Devine, Schwartz, and Fernandez all work for Davie’s Western High School. The defendants have been assigned to positions where they will have no contact with minors until the cases are resolved. A spokesperson stated that teachers are trained to report sexual assaults, sources indicate. “Our teachers get trained, and we have a full-time person who heads up our work in mandatory reporting,” the spokesperson for the school district purportedly commented. “We’re a large district, although I don’t like the fact that we have one incident. We’re using this in our ongoing training and professional development for administrators and employees.”
Reports say the victim in this case is a 15-year-old student who suffers from a learning disability. In early 2012, Schwartz asked one of her classes to write essays about something that had changed them, sources say. The victim later turned in an essay detailing an incident where her 15-year-old boyfriend allegedly shoved her into a closet and sexually assaulted her, the press states.
Schwartz purportedly shared the essay with her colleagues Devine and Fernandez and graded it. Based on reports, other adults at the school may have also seen the essay as well. David Jones, the principal during that school year, has since been re-assigned to an assistant principal position at another institution, but the reassignment was not related to this case, sources say. Whoever had seen the essay, authorities were not informed, nor was the victim’s mother, sources report.
In May 2012, the victim’s mother, whose name has not been released, was reportedly looking over her daughter’s work from the year when she stumbled across the essay. “This is the sixth largest school system in the country. These people are trained for this stuff. How can this happen?” the mother reportedly said, stating that she was horrified that no one had informed her or police about the contents of the paper. “I still cannot fathom why you would not report it. It just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.”
The victim’s mother approached district officials to address the failure to report the essay, sources say. It was apparently not until the mother met with the school district’s superintendent in October 2012 that any additional action was taken. The superintendent purportedly reported the incident to the State Attorney’s Office. However, given the time period, the victim’s mother said it will be a hard road to criminally charge the boy who allegedly raped the victim.