P.K. Yonge Administrators Face Questions in Wake of Molestation 'Incident'
Published November 16th, 2012
GAINESVILLE - A meeting designed to answer questions about an attack on a girl at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School led to some heated exchanges with parents Thursday night.
University of Florida police say on November 1 a seventh grade girl was molested on school property by other students, resulting in one boy's arrest. He and two others no longer attend the school. P.K. Yonge is a developmental research school associated with the University of Florida.
Two weeks after the alleged attack took place, administrators publicly took questions from parents for the first time. For a school that serves students from kindergarten through grade 12, there were only a handful of parents in attendance. Those parents tell us they weren't notified about the meeting until around 1 o'clock Thursday afternoon, just hours before the meeting was scheduled to take place.
During that meeting, school officials spent most of the time assuring parents that this attack was an isolated incident. Despite those reassurances, many parents still had questions about what exactly will change in the wake of this incident, something the administrators said they would not be able to answer until the results of a police investigation are complete.
"Understandably our parents are concerned," said Dr. Lynda Hayes, director of P.K. Yonge, in a separate interview conducted after the meeting. "We did take action immediately. The students of concern have not been on our campus since the incident took place. We have learned from this, we will continue to learn from this, and we will work together with our community of parents to take our very safe campus, and make it even safer in the future," said Dr. Hayes.
School administrators said repeatedly throughout the meeting that they were limited in what they could disclose about the incident because of the ongoing investigation by police. When asked what specific changes the school will implement in the wake of this incident, Dr. Hayes said, "We're still working with the University police department. This is an ongoing investigation, and once we have the full report, then we'll use that as an opportunity to consider next steps."
When asked on the record why parents were not notified about the meeting until just a few hours before it was set to begin, Dr. Hayes did not provide an answer. She later told me off camera that Thursday's meeting was simply an extension of an existing Student Advisory Council meeting, which was scheduled to be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. the same night, according to the school's website.
After concluding the initial interview, Dr. Hayes did come back to address the question regarding communication with parents. "We took this as a last minute opportunity to contact those parents and the other parents that we could quickly contact, just to let them know we were having a conversation tonight," said Dr. Hayes.
Dr. Hayes also said Thursday night's meeting was just the first of many conversations with parents that will be held in regards to this incident. But when asked in what form or when those additional conversations will take place, she would not provide an answer.
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