A former principal and two special education teachers at Freedom Hill Elementary School in Vienna, Virginia were indicted on Monday of abusing six non-verbal children with intellectual disabilities over a period of months. Included in the 18 alleged abuse charges are assault and battery, as well as cruelty and injuries to children.
Cylmeera Gastav was charged with one felony count of cruelty and injuries to children and three misdemeanor counts of assault and battery. Cecilia Maria Benavides was charged with one felony count of cruelty and injuries to children and 12 counts of misdemeanor assault and battery. Gastav and Benavides have been fired.
Former principal Scott Bloom was charged with failing to report complaints of suspected abuse. When made aware of the alleged abuse, Bloom, who worked at the school between 2018 and 2019, didn’t notify police or Child Protective Services. An employee of the school district since 2012, Bloom, most recently served as principal of Haycock Elementary in Falls Church, where he’s been placed on administrative leave.
The charges were the result of an investigation that took place within Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) between April and September of this year. The investigation was spurred by a report from another teacher who saw bruising on one of the students and alerted school administration and Child Protective Services.
In a statement, FCPS Chief Operating Officer Marty Smith said, “At this point, this remains an active investigation and we are cooperating with the police in any way we can. Together, we will continue to work to ensure that our students are learning in a safe environment and where they feel a high degree of trust with the teachers and staff who serve them.”