Imagine Schools Lakewood Ranch principal returns to work

eearl@bradenton.comDecember 10, 2013 

MANATEE -- Selenia Quinones, principal of Imagine Schools Lakewood Ranch, returned to work Monday after the State Attorney's Office announced she would not face charges for failure to report suspected child abuse.

Quinones had been on administrative leave since Nov. 4.

In July, a pre-kindergarten student reportedly witnessed another 4-year-old pre-kindergarten classmate performing oral sex on a classmate.

Five children, all boys, were involved in the incident, according to the state attorney's investigation. However, the State Attorney's Office said it did not have evidence to prove Quinones knew the incident had occurred at the school and willingly decided to not report it.

Attorney Shawn Arnold, who serves on the corporate council for the chain of Imagine Schools, said he conducted an investigation on the school's behalf and came to the same conclusion.

"There was no evidence that she had failed to report an incident of abuse," Arnold said. "It was one person's word against another's."

Arnold said he came into the investigation with an open mind. If Quinones was found to have acted improperly, she would be terminated and he would recommend charges, Arnold said.

"The fact is, it didn't turn out that way at all," Arnold said. "We welcomed her back to school today. Our top interest is being safe. People's children are dropped off at our door, and keeping them safe is our responsibility. We need to put this matter behind us and move on."

Rod Sasse, executive vice president for Imagine Schools in West Florida, said he is glad to have Quinones back at the school.

"The safety and security of children is Imagine Schools' No. 1 concern," Sasse said.

However, not all parents share Sasse's outlook.

The parent who reported her son had witnessed the incident and told Quinones said even though the state attorney's investigation is "right on," she is disappointed Quinones is returning to Imagine Schools Lakewood Ranch as principal.

"There is no recording of the phone call, and I cannot prove that she heard and understood," said the parent, who want to remain anonymous. "We don't know what will happen with the teachers, but we want Mrs. Quinones removed. We have done all we can and want parents to know that even though charges are not being filed, this did happen."

Sasse said in August, the school held two workshops about reporting suspected child abuse. One was held by the school district following the failure to report child abuse charges in the case of Manatee High School assistant football coach Rod Frazier.

"The entire faculty, even custodial staff, was required to go," Sasse said. "There is always faculty and staff involved where children are. We keep faculty and staff well involved in all activities that go on on campus."

The parent of the child involved said she is uncomfortable with having the same administration at Imagine Schools Lakewood Ranch after the incident, but she wants a better safety policy put in place.

"I'm not asking parents to pull their kids out," she said. "Some teachers are phenomenal, and I am sad for those teachers."

As of Thursday, the parent has pulled her children -- the child who reportedly saw the incident and a 10-year-old child -- out of the school. She said she is also seeking professional help for her son.

"This has taken a lot out of me," she said. "It has consumed me."

Sasse said he could not comment further about the incident.

"I think the report speaks for itself," Sasse said.

Calls to Quinones were not returned.

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081

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