NEWARK (CN) - School custodians bound and gagged four second-graders in a bathroom and took photos of them, and school administrators blew it off as a "joke gone bad," parents claim in court.
Parents of three children claim the lame response from the Long Branch Public School Board and The Gregory School has led the community to believe the families are "creating a proverbial 'mountain out of a molehill.'"
The families filed pseudonymously, on behalf of children JEF Jr., MED and VO.
Defendants include the alleged assailants, Kevin Garifine and Robert S. Rego.
The parents claim that VO and another 7-year-old entered the Gregory School bathroom while Garifine and Rego were doing maintenance.
"(T)he custodians demanded that VO and the other student 'play a game' and then forcibly and violently tied these students' hands together with tape," the complaint states.
"The custodians also demanded that the students 'be quiet' and then forcibly and violently gagged the students' mouths shut with tape.
"Shortly thereafter, JEF Jr. and MED entered the bathroom and the custodians demanded that they 'come here' and 'be quiet.'
"The custodians then forcibly and violently tied these students' hands together with tape.
"The custodians then forcibly and violently pushed all four students against the wall and proceeded to take pictures of them with the cameras on their cell phone(s).
"Such abusive conduct was not consensual in any manner and was an incredibly offensive touching and battery."
It also constituted corporal punishment and child abuse, the parents say.
Eventually, the custodians allowed the students to leave the bathroom, according to the 26-page complaint.
The children tried to tell their homeroom teachers and their art teacher what had happened, but they were ignored and school authorities were not notified until later in the day, the parents say.
When the principal, superintendent and school board learned what had happened, they failed to inform law enforcement immediately and sent the custodians home early from work without questioning by law enforcement, the parents claim.
Lead plaintiff JEF Sr. claims the superintendent told him to his face that "there was no school 'policy' that stated that the custodians should be sent home," but that he told the principal to send the custodians home after the superintendent "spoke to his lawyer."
"To make matters worse, Superintendent [Michael] Salvatore has sought to downplay the significance of this abuse by making statements to the media that this incident was merely a 'joke gone bad,'" the complaint states.
Neither the superintendent nor principal Elford Rawls-Dill are named as defendants.
But the parents claim that due to their negligence, "the custodians were able to flee law enforcement and abscond with the offensive and inappropriate pictures they took of the students that depicted the abuse inflicted. Incredibly, one of the custodian, Garigine, fled to Florida."0
The parents say their children "severe emotional trauma," including post-traumatic stress disorder.
They seek punitive damages for civil rights violations, assault and battery, false imprisonment and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by Chad Seigel with Tacopina, Seigel & Turano, of Newark.
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