johnny_mccray_8.jpgPOMPANO BEACH — An investigation into allegations that two teachers psychologically abused students has been closed.

The attorney representing the teachers said he was unaware the case had been closed until he was contacted by the South Florida Times. He is now seeking a criminal investigation into what he calls a “fabricated” abuse report.

“We’ve closed the case and none of it was substantiated,” said Mark Riordan, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), regarding the abuse case.
Through an anonymous call to DCF’s child abuse hotline on April 22, the allegations were made against Blanche Ely High School reading teachers Leslie Rainer and Djuna Robinson.

In response to the complaint, the teachers were removed from their classrooms in front of students, and escorted off school grounds.

karlton_o._johnson.jpg“No one has said anything to us, but I’m pleased. I’ve stated all along, this entire case was totally made up,” said Johnny L. McCray, Jr., the teacher’s attorney. “It’s a crime to file a false complaint, and I have asked the state attorney to investigate [Assistant Principal Sabrina] Elsinger and [Principal Karlton] Johnson.”

The letter is to “request an investigation by your office into the report of child abuse made against Ms. Robinson and Ms. Rainer through the hotline, in order to determine whether the report was fabricated with malicious intent or fraudulently and/or callously made,” McCray wrote in a two-page letter to Broward State Attorney Michael Satz on Thursday, June 17.

Officials with the State Attorney’s Office have not commented on McCray’s request.

The abuse allegations stem from disparaging remarks the teachers supposedly made about Haiti in the presence of students on March 11. The complaint also accused the teachers of telling students of Haitian descent that they were “trash,” while requiring those students to stand next to a trash can.

McCray questioned the validity of the anonymous statements, and said Elsinger has made the same allegations about a teacher forcing students to stand next to a trash can in years past. In the past, those allegations were also discredited.

The investigation centers on a March 11 incident in which fellow teacher Schandra Tompkinsel Rodriguez was in her classroom at the Pompano Beach high school, discussing with students the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti. In response to the commotion that the lively discussion created, Rainer and Robinson entered the room, according to McCray and confidential sources.

A student brought up the Rev. Pat Robertson’s remark that the disaster was caused by God’s wrath on the island nation because of a pact Haitian leaders allegedly made with Satan more than 200 years ago, the confidential sources and McCray said.

Rainer told the student that this position was only the evangelist leader’s opinion, and Rodriguez reportedly began refuting Christianity.

Rainer and Robinson are Christians. They were also accused during the same incident of sprinkling holy water onto Rodriguez, an avowed atheist. School officials have backed away from that allegation, but have yet to close that investigation.

The psychological abuse claims were reportedly made by Elsinger, the assistant principal, according to anonymous sources and McCray.

“Both of my clients gave separate, recorded statements to SIU [Broward School District’s Special Investigation Unit] and the investigator told us each time it was Elsinger who filed the complaint with DCF,” McCray said.

Supporting documentation of the abuse allegations, in the form of anonymous statements taken from students by Johnson, were also given to DCF investigators.

“They filed a false complaint, which is a crime,” McCray said. “Elsinger accused my client [Rainer] of this same trash can nonsense in 2008, which the principal confirmed to be nothing more than a rumor, and dropped it. For her to now report to DCF that this happened in March is serious.”

sabrina_elsinger.gifNeither Johnson nor Elsinger has responded to calls or emails seeking comment.
Despite repeated calls, emails and messages left at his office, Broward School Superintendent Jim Notter has not commented on the case being closed, or McCray’s call for a criminal investigation.

If an investigation should determine the complaint was not made in good faith, it could have serious ramifications.

Knowingly filing a false complaint with a state agency is a crime. State law requires teachers and school officials to immediately report suspected abuse. Additionally, they are prohibited from doing so anonymously, and must provide their names and contact information when abuse is suspected. McCray alleges that Elsinger and Johnson failed to comply with those requirements.

“On Thursday 4/22/10 I was contacted by CPIS investigator Halaby in reference to investigating allegations of possible Psychological Abuse involving teachers at Blanche Ely High School,” wrote J.T. Mallory, a BSO school resource deputy assigned to Blanche Ely High School, in a confidential sheriff’s office event report obtained by the South Florida Times.

“Allegation Narrative stated that students of Haitian decent [sic] asked two teachers why the country of Haiti was going threw [sic] so much more than others, and teachers told the students that it was because Haiti made a pact with the devil. Further allegation states that on another occasion Haitian students have been instructed to stand by classroom trash cans because they have been told that they are trash,” the April 22 complaint reads.

The report does not mention Elsinger or Johnson by name, but does state that the “principal” collected anonymous statements from students to support the allegations.

“This is believed to be impeding the children’s learning and has been going on since the month of March 2010,” the complaint alleges. “Several anonymous written student statements had been collected by the principal and are attached to this report.”

McCray said he believes his clients were intentionally targeted and removed from their classrooms without cause.

That notion is disputed by some school officials.

“DCF, not BSO, were the ones that requested for them to be removed from the classroom over things I can’t talk about,” insisted Broward School Board Member Ben Williams, whose district includes Ely High School. “It was DCF who later said it was okay, and asked us to return them to the classroom, and that’s what we did.”

The last day of school for students was Wednesday, June 9. After the holy-water sprinkling allegations were debunked, Rainer and Robinson were issued notices to return to their classrooms, effective Thursday, June 10.

“We asked that precautions be in place in order protect the children. That’s standard practice when an abuse complaint is made. By law, it has to be the least restrictive method available,” DCF spokesperson Riordan explained.
“We did not direct the school or the school board to remove those teachers in the first place and we certainly did not tell them to return them to the classroom.”
Pictured Above:    Johnny McCray, top, Karlton O. Johnson, below, and Sabrina Elsinger, bottom.