“Palm Beach Central Principal Arrested“. In a shocking turn of events, the Palm Beach Central Principal has been arrested, sending ripples of surprise and concern throughout the community. The arrest has left parents, students, and faculty members in a state of disbelief, as they grapple with the implications of this unexpected development.
Palm Beach Central Principal Arrested
On Monday, Palm Beach Central High Principal Darren Edgecomb and four other school district staff members faced arrest on charges related to their failure to report suspected sexual assaults against a 15-year-old student.
The arrested individuals include Assistant Principals Nereyda Cayado de Garcia (37) and Daniel Snider (49), along with Choral Teacher Scott Houchins (53). Additionally, Priscilla Carter (55), currently working as a case worker in the district’s SafeSchools office, was also taken into custody by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office at approximately 10 p.m. on Monday.
Under state law, all employees of public school districts, charter schools, and private schools bear the responsibility to promptly report any actual or suspected cases of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect.
The charges against the district employees stem from their alleged failure to report two suspected sexual assaults that occurred off-campus. They were made aware of these incidents through a letter written in pink ink by the victim’s friend. Disturbingly, the student had pleaded with school administrators to address the situation as she feared for her friend’s life.
Tragically, the victim of these suspected assaults reportedly attempted to take her own life during the summer of 2021. Sheriff’s deputies, who interviewed the school administrators, pointed out that had the incidents been properly addressed before the summer, the suicide attempt might have been prevented.
In response to the situation, Palm Beach County schools spokesperson Angela Cruz Ledford issued a written statement on Tuesday, asserting that the district would not comment on an ongoing investigation. She did, however, confirm that all employees involved in the case had been reassigned to positions where they will have no contact with students.
Ledford emphasized that the allegations concerning students occurred off school property and during a weekend. Nonetheless, the district’s policy aligns with the law, making it mandatory for all personnel to report any suspected abuse, regardless of when or where it occurs.
Unraveling the Events at Palm Beach Central High School
The charges in question are related to incidents that occurred in both April and August 2021. However, the sheriff’s office reports have been heavily redacted, concealing the names of many of the staff members who were arrested.
In June 2021, a female friend of a 15-year-old student attending Palm Beach Central wrote a letter detailing two instances in which the student had been sexually assaulted by two boys. The friend, whose identity remains undisclosed, witnessed both assaults and expressed concern that the boys were unrelenting despite the student’s refusal.
Disturbingly, the friend also disclosed that the student had been engaging in self-harm, and there were fears she might contemplate suicide.
Upon receiving the letter, Palm Beach Central chorus teacher Houchins forwarded it to the school’s guidance office. However, he failed to report the allegations of sexual assault.
Subsequently, Priscilla Carter, a school behavioral health specialist at the time, met with the student but did not inquire about the suspected sexual assaults or report them to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or law enforcement. Instead, Carter focused solely on the student’s suicidal thoughts and the safety of her relationship.
In August 2021, the student disclosed another incident of sexual assault to Assistant Principal Snider, providing a written report as requested. Snider then shared the report with Principal Edgecomb, but the school’s leadership once again failed to report the suspected assault to DCF.
The student later reported the suspected sexual assault again, this time to Cayado de Garcia, another assistant principal, who subsequently informed Edgecomb about the second report.
During a meeting with top school leaders, Principal Edgecomb asserted that he had conducted his own investigation into the sexual assault allegations and concluded that no assault had occurred. As a result, he claimed there was no need to report the matter to law enforcement or DCF, citing discrepancies between the student’s account and his findings.
Cayado de Garcia defended her lack of reporting by stating that she believed the student was safe, thereby assuming there was no obligation for the school to report the incident. However, it is important to note that Florida law mandates the reporting of suspected child abuse.
Initially, the student’s parents chose not to pursue criminal charges, fearing a legal battle could impede their child’s healing process. However, they later approached the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office with new information regarding what school leaders had failed to report.
This incident is not an isolated case, as there have been other instances in Florida where educators faced arrest for failing to report abuse and misconduct. For instance, in May, a charter school principal in Hillsborough County was arrested for not reporting the abuse of a 7-year-old student. The principal claimed she was unaware of her obligation to report such incidents to the state and was placed on administrative leave during the police investigation.
These cases highlight the critical importance of promptly reporting suspected child abuse and following the law to ensure the safety and well-being of students.
Edgecomb Placed on Probation Following Grade-Changing Scandal
Edgecomb has served as the principal at Palm Beach Central since at least 2016.
In 2019, a investigation conducted by the school district’s inspector general revealed that Edgecomb and then-Assistant Principal Laurence Greenberg had altered the grades of at least 11 students without the knowledge or involvement of their respective teachers.
The investigation found that the administrators failed to follow proper protocols by not consulting with teachers or district leaders before making these grade changes. Greenberg defended his actions by stating that he modified the grades due to extenuating circumstances, claiming that the teachers had unfairly targeted the students or graded their work improperly.
As a consequence of these actions, Edgecomb was placed on probation for three years starting from October of a previous year. As part of the probation agreement, he committed to completing a college-level leadership course or two “microcredential” leadership courses offered by the National Education Association within the first year of his probation.
Additionally, Edgecomb agreed to adhere strictly to all state and local education regulations and accepted a letter of reprimand for his involvement in the grade adjustments.
Notably, Edgecomb faced prior controversy in 2010 while serving as the principal of Turning Points Academy near West Palm Beach. During that time, he was accused of retaliating against Assistant Principal Anne Williams Dorsey, who had taken maternity leave, by demoting her and reducing her pay.
This incident led to legal consequences five years later when the U.S. Justice Department sued the school district over the demotion. The case ultimately resulted in a settlement that cost the school district $350,000.
As the investigation into the Palm Beach Central Principal’s arrest unfolds, the school community must come together to support one another during these challenging times. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of transparency and accountability in educational institutions. As updates continue to emerge, it remains crucial to prioritize the well-being and safety of the students, ensuring they can continue their education in a secure and nurturing environment.