IPS employees to avoid prosecution after failing to report sex abuse allegations

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Indianapolis, Ind - Two Indianapolis Public Schools employees charged with failure to report sexual abuse of students by a school counselor entered into an agreement to avoid prosecution Tuesday morning.

IPS Human Resources Director, Doctor Lela “Tina” Hester and Human Resources Case Worker Shalon Dabney appeared in court facing Class B Misdemeanors.  The two were accused of delaying reports to police or DCS of allegations that former counselor Shana Taylor had sex with two students.

During Tuesday’s court hearing, Hester and Dabney entered into an agreement to avoid prosecution.  The agreement will act as a diversion program which will require each woman to undergo a full review of IPS policies regarding the reporting of sexual abuse allegations.  Both women will have to pay a diversion fee of $302, and will be required to fully cooperate with an ongoing internal investigation into the matter by Indianapolis Public School officials.  Both women are also required to conduct training sessions of IPS policies with other employees.

Entering into the agreement also means each woman is admitting that probable cause exists for the filing of the case.

The charges were filed after investigators learned that Hester, Dabney and several other employees were aware of the allegations against Taylor days before the allegations were reported to DCS.  Court records indicate seven employees knew about the accusations at least six days before they were reported to DCS on February 23.

Prosecutors cited an email Hester sent to the district’s top strategist.

"I asked that the school police stay out of it so that she is not charged and we can handle from an HR perspective," Hester’s email said.  “But I don't know if the mom plans to file charges."

Hester and Dabney were the only two employees charged with failing to report the abuse.

“We looked at all the possible people involved in this, and this was the decision that was made by a number of people in our office,” said Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Knoop.

After the charges were announced last month, IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee called the incident a clear case of incompetence.

"I don’t believe that there was mal-intent or an intent to cover up," Ferebee said.  "I believe a lot of people involved in this particular situation and handling this situation, the primary focus was on ensuring that the employee that was involved, that was doing inappropriate things … was removed. We had students safe."

During the April news conference, Dr. Ferebee said he also knew of the sexual abuse allegations February 17, but believed appropriate actions were being taken.

"I was made aware of the initial reporting, and it was shared with me that we were following our protocols and procedures," Ferebee said.  "It wasn’t until we had the employee in and they were being interviewed by a human resources staff member that it was discovered that (the reporting) was not done."

“I also think this is a very good learning experience for everyone,” Knoop said Tuesday.  “I think this gives IPS an opportunity to review all their policies and procedures.”

IPS is currently conducting their own internal investigation into the matter.  The district’s Media Relations Coordinator, Kristen Cutler released this statement after Tuesday’s court hearing:

“Indianapolis Public Schools' highest priority is the safety and security of our students. The matter in question continues to work its way through the legal process, and we are working with authorities. We anticipate that our internal efforts around this matter will soon be able to recommence, and we will take all appropriate actions to maintain the high level of trust we've earned with parents and students. We will comment appropriately when there are pertinent changes or when this situation is resolved.”

Know said he did not anticipate anyone else being charged in the failure to report the alleged abuse.  But he’s also leaving the possibility open, based on the IPS internal investigation and any other new information.

“I never close an investigation completely,” Knoop said.  “If we receive new information or someone comes forward and provides us with something, we always take a look at it.  At this point, these are the only two charged.”

Hester and Dabney are still currently employed by IPS.  The district’s internal investigation will likely determine whether that will continue.  Guidelines listed in the diversion agreement indicate that Hester is expected to keep her job.  But Dabney’s agreement makes room for the possibility that she may be terminated by the district.  One line in the agreement stipulates that Dabney would be required to perform 40 hours of community service if she is unable to complete the review and training regarding IPS policies.

Shana Taylor faces multiple counts related to sexual misconduct with a minor.  She is scheduled back in court June 28.