Former principal Scott Bloom, 39, of Reston, Va., has been charged with a misdemeanor count of failure to report. Instructional aides Cylmeera Gastav, 48, of Herndon, Va., and Cecilia Maria Benavides, 59, of Alexandria, Va., are facing multiple misdemeanor and felony counts of cruelty and injury to children and assault and battery.
Fairfax County police declined to describe the specific abuse that they allege occurred because the case has yet to go to trial. They said the students did not require medical attention, but parents had noticed bruising on children.
“This case is shocking, unacceptable conduct by community members who are in a position of trust,” said Fairfax County police Maj. Ed O’Carroll, commander of the major-crimes bureau.
O’Carroll said the abuse came to light in mid-September, after a concerned teacher noticed bruises on a student and reported them to the school and child protective services. By that point, Bloom was no longer the principal at the school. The current principal did notify authorities, O’Carroll said.
Gastav and Benavides were working in support of a special-education teacher, officials said.
The investigation revealed that Bloom was allegedly told about potential abuse during the previous school year but failed to notify authorities, police said. Bloom and all Fairfax County schoolteachers are required by law to report such abuse.
Detectives believe that they have identified all the victims but asked anyone to come forward who knows of other cases, O’Carroll said.
Bloom, who was transferred to Haycock Elementary in Falls Church, Va., at the start of the current school year, has been placed on administrative leave. He has been an employee of the school district since 2012. Bloom did not respond to a request for comment.
Gastav and Benavides have been fired, Fairfax County school officials said. Gastav was hired as a full-time employee of Fairfax County Public Schools in 2019, and Benavides had nearly 20 years of experience with the district. Neither responded to a request for comment.
It was unclear if Bloom, Gastav or Benavides had retained attorneys.
Marty Smith, chief operating officer for Fairfax County schools, said the staff members involved were immediately placed on leave during the criminal investigation. Fairfax County Public Schools also launched an administrative investigation, which is ongoing.
In a letter to the Freedom Hill school community, Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand said officials were “saddened and distressed” by the allegations and offered an apology to students and families affected by the case. He wrote that experienced special-education teachers were assigned to the classroom that was involved.
Smith said Freedom Hill staff members and teachers reviewed mandatory reporting requirements at a training session last month.
“There is no greater responsibility of a school system than the safety and well-being of our students, and as a result of this tragic situation, we have learned that we need to do more,” Smith said.
Hannah Natanson contributed to this report.