Two Gregory Elementary School maintenance employees have been suspended and are being investigated after an "incident" with four young students on Thursday morning, March 1.
According to a statement from Long Branch Superintendent of Schools Michael Salvatore, the incident occurred in the boys' bathroom, but details of what occurred were not released by the school. The names of the students, their ages and the names and salaries of the two employees have not been released.
However, The Link News reported on its Facebook page that it had received an e-mail from a parent stating the following:
“Yesterday (March 1) 4 boys under the age of 10 were bound and gagged by the school janitors in the bathroom at the Gregory School Long Branch ... Photos were taken by the janitors ... Long Branch Police and the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office are investigating ...”
Salvatore's e-mail states that "after the reports and the review of our security cameras revealed the possibility that the incident took place, parents were notified, as well as, the proper authorities."
He said cameras are not allowed in bathrooms or locker rooms, but that footage from other school cameras "revealed that the students and staff were in the bathroom at that time."
The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, Long Branch Police Department and Institutional Abuse/DYFS are conducting an investigation regarding the allegations, according to Salvatore.
Monmouth County Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Richard Incremona no criminal charges had been filed as of Saturday afternoon.
"There was an allegation about children and staff members," Incremona said. "We were contacted by the Long Branch Police and we are investigating."
Salvatore said the employees were sent home immediately after the incident was reported, suspended with pay and summoned to the Long Branch Police Department for testimony.
"Regardless of criminality, as the acts are claimed to be without malice and in jest; we have taken abrupt action as a safeguard to the children," Salvatore said in his statement. "It is the responsibility of all staff to ensure the safety and well-being of every child."
"Any allegations involving reprehensible decisions and actions, regardless of intent, are intolerable and will not be accepted by the Long Branch Board of Education," Salvatore continued
The timeline of the incident is still under investigation, but Gregory Elementary School Principal Elford Rawls-Dill informed the parents, Salvatore, the Long Branch Police and Institutional Abuse shortly after the incident occurred, according to Salvatore's statement.
Rawls-Dill reportedly conducted student interviews and reviewed the school security cameras before reaching out the parents, Salvatore and authorities.
The Gregory School staff was informed of the incident on Friday morning, March 2.
"(Staff members) were told that if they hear students speaking of incidents similar to this to notify the principal immediately, who will then contact the Long Branch Police Department who is conducting the investigation," Salvatore said.
Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) released a statement about the incident on Monday morning:
“Parents send their children to school with the peace of mind that it is a place of safety and security. All of the employees of a school are entrusted with lives of our children, from the principal to the janitors. A story like this sends a chill through all of our spines. The parties involved must be held accountable and the investigation needs to be expedient and thorough. While the maintenance workers claim it was a harmless prank, in today’s day an age this type of behavior is dangerous and simply unacceptable."
Senator Beck continued, “I know the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office will do everything necessary to ensure that justice is mete. There will be many questions that demand answers as this case unravels, and the public deserves that much. All employees need to be thoroughly vetted to ensure the safety of our students. I pray that an incident like this never happens again, but we must all work together to protect our students in the future and guarantee that his situation is a horrible anomaly.”
Salvatore said any information about the incident should be directed to the Long Branch Police Department.