ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Dozens of residents are demanding to know more about 22 teachers who wrote a Rochester court in support of a colleague who was convicted of molesting a local elementary student.
Now the mayor of Rochester is lending her voice to their demands.
Teacher Matt LoMaglio, 37, was convicted of molesting an 8-year-old boy at School 19 in 2006 and was sentenced in January to four years in prison, despite 22 letters of support from teachers and other school employees who worked with the pedophile.
EAGnews requested copies of the letters, but court officials refused to release the documents because they were part of the pre-sentencing phase of the trial, as if that should matter.
A petition demanding the release of the teachers’ letters is circulating online, and it gained a very prominent backer over the weekend. Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren signed on because she believes citizens deserve to decide if they want their children in a school with teachers who support child molesters, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports.
“When the petition came to me, I felt free to sign it,” Warren told the newspaper. “It’s not just about my child. I think we need to be united as parents and united as people in this community to stand up to this kind of thing.”
The petition was started by local resident Karen Bryant, who wrote “We need to unearth the insidious reasons adults felt compelled to write letters in support of LoMaglio, in spite of the heinous crime he was convicted of.
“We have a right to know the character of individuals whom we entrust with the care and education of our children.”
The case is especially relevant because the prosecutor who handled LoMaglio’s trial contends that some school employees were less than cooperative during the criminal investigation.
On Sunday, Warren signed the petition and added her own suggestion for a compromise.
“The district could ask the court for the documents and tell parents – without naming names – if anyone at their child’s school was involved and what, if any, action was taken against them,” she said, according to the newspaper.
While the suggestion is well intentioned, the public deserves better. Parents deserve to know if their child’s teacher, specifically, supports a child molester.
The situation in Rochester is similar to one that recently took place in Michigan’s West Branch-Rose City school district. In that case, seven teachers wrote in to the court to plead for a lenient sentence for Neal Erickson, who was convicted of molesting a middle school boy over several years.
The court, community, and the victim’s parents were shocked and angered by the letter writing teachers. The letters were released to the public, and the public demanded the teachers’ immediate termination.
The school board ultimately voted to keep the teachers, out of fear of expensive lawsuits that would follow, but parents and other citizens had their say. Over the course of two public school board meetings, local residents pleaded their case for termination to the school board.
In the end, West Branch-Rose City schools lost about 87 students and $600,000 in state funding attached to them, because parents pulled their children from the district.
Rochester parents deserve the same opportunity to learn where teachers in their community stand on child molestation, and to make an informed decision about whether or not it’s an appropriate place to continue sending their children.