Report: #57989

Complaint Review: Kissimmee Elementary & Osceola County School Board - Florida

  • Submitted: Thu, May 22, 2003
  • Updated: Fri, May 23, 2003
  • Reported By: Kissimmee Florida
  • Kissimmee Elementary & Osceola County School Board - Florida
    Kissimmee, Florida

Osceola County School Board supports principal & administrators at Elementary school for failing to immediately report possible sexual abuse as required by law Kissimmee Florida

*Author of original report: recanted her allegation because school officials "kept telling her that she was lying,"

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Kissimmee Elementary Principal, 2 Administrators and the School Board should be held responsible for any sexual abuse inflicted on students by a teacher.

Clip from

The second-grade teacher, Matthew Rossillo, 25, was charged Wednesday with five counts of lewd or lascivious molestation of a child under 12 years of age. He is accused of sexually molesting five girls ranging in age from 8 to 9 between the end of March and early May.

Police officials weren't notified about the abuse allegations until more than three days after Meyers received word of the report, Moore said.


It gets worse!! There was a complaint in March and the school never reported it!

These 3 individuals, Kenneth Meyers, Lisa Bobet, Sonia Drudge have been arrested for failing to report child abuse by a teacher. The school board says that the police should APOLOGIZE to the 3! Also, they are threatening to sue the city! HA!

Personally, I would like to thank the police for taking a stand and letting school employees know that they are not the judge and the jury. Nor are they qualified to determine if abuse is occurring among students by teachers. Who do they think they are?!

Since they decided not to report the 1st complaint back in March, 5 other children have been molested. In March, our qualified principal determined that he would not report the complaint to authorities but he would give a written reprimand to the teacher. Gee, thanks, Mr. Meyers! I think we should thank him for contributing to 5 additional elementary students being sexually abused.

Then we should thank the Osceola County School Board for supporting 3 administrators for KNOWINGLY failing to report child abuse and conducting their own internal investigation instead of letting the professionals handle it. The law clearly says that it is to be reported IMMEDIATELY; Not if you think so or when you feel like it or if you agree that it happened or whenever youre done playing detective

Lets also thank David Stone, one of the School Board Members, who said, "We wanted to go the extra mile to ensure we do have a case. Once it was clear there was reasonable suspicion, we did contact the Kissimmee police. I am disappointed it worked out this way."

I would like to ask David who gave them the right to over-ride the law? The law does not tell you to conduct an internal investigation to determine if the abuse complaint is valid or not. Also, the 1st incident with the 5th grader was never reported back in March. Who the hell are you people to stand by these actions?!

Thanks to all involved, 5 more young children are scarred and possibly many others that were unaware of. The delay in the reporting of this cowardly act is unacceptable! All should be held accountable for this.

I am sickened at the stance the School Board has taken on this issue. I question my childrens safety at their school within this district. What if our highly qualified principal and cohorts decided AGAIN that the allegations were unfounded????? WE NEVER WOULD HAVE KNOWN and our children would still be subjected to this sick act.

I think that if the School Board feels that its okay for the schools to break serious laws designed to protect individuals then they too should be held accountable. They should step down; theyre uneducated and should not be dealing with children.

Let the school board know that this is not acceptable behavior. As parents we will not allow our children to be endangered by criminally driven individuals within our school system. Follow this link to contact and express your thoughts to them.

Dont forget to let the Superintendent, Blaine Muse, know we wont put up with this! They dont need an apology! They need to apologize to the citizens in this county for not protecting our children!

Mr. Blaine Muse
817 Bill Beck Boulevard
Kissimmee, Florida 34744
Telephone: 407/870-4008
SC 340-4008
Fax: 407/870-4658
Secretary(s): Wilma James

Here we have Kissimmee Elementarys website. How ironic is it that the Elementary School teacher, Matthew Rossillo, is still listed as a teacher!

News Report regarding this.:

3 Osceola school officials made late report of abuse, police say

By Willoughby Mariano and April Hunt | Sentinel Staff Writers
Posted May 22, 2003,0,5827075.story?coll=orl-home-headlines

KISSIMMEE -- Three Osceola County school officials -- including a principal and the district's human-resources director -- were arrested Wednesday after police said they weren't notified until three days after allegations that a second-grade teacher molested girls in his classroom.

Kissimmee Elementary School teacher Matthew Rossillo, 25, was also arrested Wednesday. Police said Rossillo molested five students during the course of about a month while the girls were waiting to be picked up from school.

Principal Kenneth Meyers, district human-resources director Lissa Bobet and district investigator Sonia Drudge conducted their own investigation before notifying police, who said the three waited too long to report the allegations. But district officials defended the administrators, saying they handled the case properly.

"We wanted to go the extra mile to ensure we do have a case," School Board member David Stone said. "Once it was clear there was reasonable suspicion, we did contact the Kissimmee police. I am disappointed it worked out this way."

School Board attorney Usher "Larry" Brown noted that Rossillo was removed from the classroom immediately after a parent complained on May 12 that a teacher was using bizarre methods to teach math. Brown said it was not clear that any molestation occurred. He said the district initially called the Sheriff's Office on May 14 but found out it was not that department's jurisdiction. District officials then contacted Kissimmee police a day later, on May 15.

Brown said the district had been cooperating fully with the investigation.

"We are outraged that the Kissimmee Police Department initiated any kind of charge against these three," Brown said of Meyers, Bobet and Drudge.

He demanded an apology from Kissimmee and proper compensation for Meyers, Bobet and Drudge. He also complained officers failed to give district employees documents stating the allegations against them. School officials may consider suing the city, he said.

Rossillo was jailed on five felony counts of lewd or lascivious molestation of a child under 12 years of age. He was being held without bail in the Osceola County Jail. If convicted of the felonies, Rossillo could be imprisoned for up to 30 years.

District officials said Rossillo was suspended with pay and that termination procedures will be brought against him.

Meyers, 54, Bobet, 37, and Drudge, 39, face one count each of failure to report known or suspected child abuse, police Sgt. Ralph Moore said. The charge is punishable by up to a year in jail. The three were released on their own recognizance. According to a district news release, Superintendent Blaine Muse will reassign them "to another work location so that the claims can be investigated." At issue is whether the three officials violated state law by looking into the allegations before calling police. Moore said school officials must immediately report suspected cases of abuse if there is "reasonable cause" to suspect it occurred.

A well-known child advocate stopped short of supporting the administrators' arrests. But Jack Levine, president of Voices for Florida's Children, said district officials should not have worried about their own investigation before contacting law enforcement.

"There should have been investigating professionals from the get-go," Levine said. "There should have been a child-advocacy center involved in the first 10 minutes, someone who is trained and knows how to deal with children on issues like this."

School Board member Jay Wheeler said it is clear the district is committed to its students and works to make sure the schools are safe for them to learn.

"Obviously it's disturbing," Wheeler said of the arrests. "I am surprised. I know the district takes this very seriously."

Moore said Rossillo would take girls into his classroom, close the door, then tell them he was teaching them to count. Instead, Moore said, he tricked the girls into fondling him. The teacher would sit in a chair, ask each girl to stand in front of him, turn her back, close her eyes and hold her hands behind her back, Moore said. To fool them he would put his fingers into their hands, and ask them to count how many he was holding out, Moore said.

Not all the victims were assigned to Rossillo's classroom, Moore said, but he would not elaborate to avoid identifying the girls.

This was not the first time a female student accused Rossillo of improper behavior, Moore said. In March, a fifth-grade female student told a school administrator about a December incident in which she said Rossillo touched her underneath her skirt on her upper leg, Moore said.

School officials issued a letter to Rossillo, asking the teacher to avoid behavior with students that others may consider improper, Moore said. Police are still looking into the December incident. There is no record school officials contacted police about the fifth-grader's complaint, Moore said.

Both the fifth-grade child and parent recanted their allegations, Stone said, and district officials wanted to make sure they were fair to the teacher. Moore said his department followed proper procedures. Multiple judges signed off on warrants for the administrators' arrests, he said.

"The Police Department does not make a habit of apologizing for doing our jobs," Moore said.

The district performed a mandatory background check on Rossillo when he was hired three years ago, officials said. Rossillo has been at Kissimmee Elementary since he was hired. Parents at Kissimmee Elementary were upset they were not told about the situation. Jeanine Sanchez, 36, who has two children at the school, said she was at Kissimmee Elementary twice Wednesday, and did not detect anything was wrong. Teachers were smiling. Administrators were friendly. But she said her children were at risk.

"It's scary," Sanchez said. "We always told our kids they were safe there."

Osceola Resident
Kissimmee, Florida
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#1 Author of original report

recanted her allegation because school officials "kept telling her that she was lying,"

AUTHOR: Osceola - (U.S.A.)

The school failed to report a complaint by a 5th grader back in March. They say she recanted her story. Here is why she recanted it. We teach our children to speak out and tell adults if something like this happens. This child did and she was victimized again.

Student recanted under pressure
By Willoughby Mariano and Susan Jacobson
Sentinel Staff Writers

May 23, 2003

KISSIMMEE -- The first of six students known to have accused a Kissimmee Elementary School teacher of improper touching said she recanted her allegation because school officials "kept telling her that she was lying," according to an arrest affidavit obtained Thursday.

The fifth-grade girl told school administrators in March that Matthew Rossillo reached up her skirt and touched the back of her thigh when he hugged her in December. She told police investigators last week that she changed her story because she "just wanted people to stop bothering her," according to the affidavit. The episode resulted in Rossillo receiving a letter warning him not to hug students and to avoid being alone with them.

"There was a question as to whether she was telling the truth or not," school-district spokeswoman Dana Schafer said. She said she could not elaborate because of confidentiality requirements.

Rossillo, 25, was being held without bail in the Osceola County Jail on lewd or lascivious molestation and child-abuse charges after his arrest Wednesday. Five 8- and 9-year-old girls said he molested them inside his second-grade classroom.

In what experts describe as a rare move, police also arrested Kissimmee Elementary Principal Kenneth Meyers, 54; human-resources director Lissa Bobet, 37; and district investigator Sonia Drudge, 39. They were accused of misdemeanor counts of failing to report known or suspected child abuse. They were released Wednesday on their own recognizance.

District officials reported the allegations to Kissimmee police May 15 -- three days after Meyers, Bobet and Drudge launched their own hush-hush investigation rather than immediately turn the matter over to authorities.

Regarding the fifth-grader, Schafer said she could not go into detail about the girl's allegation. But she said the girl's parent was involved with the investigation and was satisfied with the outcome.

There was no record that district officials contacted police about the December incident, said Sgt. Ralph Moore, a police spokesman. Police are investigating the fifth-grader's allegation.

The incidents involving the younger children happened in Room 212, where Rossillo taught second grade, according to the arrest affidavit. They were Rossillo's students. Typically, he took the girls aside one at a time as they were waiting to be picked up from school and asked them to play the "finger game," the affidavit states.

As Rossillo sat at his desk, they stood beside him with their backs turned, eyes closed and hands behind them. He told them to count the number of fingers he put in their hands. Instead, Rossillo tricked them into fondling him, police said, by placing his genitals into their hands. Some of the children told investigators they heard the sound of a zipper or saw him zipping his pants after the game.

School Board attorney Usher "Larry" Brown said Wednesday that a parent complained May 12 about a teacher's bizarre math-teaching methods but that it was not clear molestation had taken place. But on that day, a student told Meyers she had come in contact with the teacher's genitals, according to Meyers' arrest affidavit.

In an interview with police, Rossillo admitted to playing a "finger game" with kids at Kissimmee Elementary but denied molesting them.

The allegations come as Osceola school-district officials have been working on a plan to have a "rapid-response advocate" at each school with the expertise to handle child-abuse complaints.

Next school year, principals will assign one person to handle suspected child-abuse cases in addition to their other duties, said Radine Himes, project director at the Osceola Children's Advocacy Center. The advocates will be responsible for notifying law enforcement, with the school-resource officer as the primary contact. The officer or the rapid-response advocate will call the state Department of Children & Families.

"In the fall, this would have been a non-issue," Himes said of the arrests of the principal and district employees.

Currently, although teachers and school administrators are required to report abuse, not all receive training arranged by Osceola school officials.

Meyers had just received training April 16 -- between allegations involving Rossillo. According to Meyers' arrest affidavit, the principal attended a session for administrators conducted by the Children's Advocacy Center. The purpose was to educate them on a "coordinated approach to reports of child abuse with local law-enforcement agencies."

The district offers extra cash to employees who voluntarily take training on the subject, but only new teachers who did not graduate from an accredited college of education must take a two-hour training course.

The district has "no formal written policy" on how to handle child-abuse cases but follows the law, Schafer said.

District officials sent notes to Kissimmee Elementary parents detailing Wednesday's events but provided no additional counselors or school psychologists, Schafer said. There are no current plans to meet with parents.

Circuit Judge Roger J. McDonald ruled Thursday that there was probable cause that Rossillo may have committed a crime and denied him bail. Rossillo was placed in protective custody, which is common with inmates accused of sex crimes, county spokeswoman Twis Hoangsaid.

Though Rossillo was immediately removed from the classroom after the May 12 complaint, police said district officials broke the law by failing to call authorities immediately.

By state law, teachers and other school officials are required to call the state child-abuse hotline if there is "reasonable cause" to suspect that abuse has taken place. DCF officials then are required to call the appropriate law-enforcement agency. Doctors, nurses, day-care workers, police and judges are among those who also fall under the requirement.

Prosecutors plan to review the case to decide whether to prosecute, said Randy Means, executive director of the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office. The process could take several weeks.

"There appears to be at least a suspicion of foul play that they should have acted on," Means said. "The law is explicit that they must call the abuse hotline immediately if they have suspicions. The intent was to make sure that law enforcement was notified."

A DCF spokesman also said someone should have called the hotline, which the agency runs.

"We should have been involved," spokesman Owen Roach said. "And we would have been involved if the procedure had been followed."

Willoughby Mariano can be reached at or 407-931-5944. Susan Jacobson can be reached at 407-931-5946 or,0,2510003.story?coll=orl%2Dnews%2Dheadlines%2Dosceola
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