FCPS Employees Charged with Assaulting Children with Intellectual Disabilities
McLean Police District – Current and former Fairfax County Public Schools employees are facing charges after an investigation found that several non-verbal children with intellectual disabilities at Freedom Hill Elementary School in Vienna had been assaulted. Those facing charges were either involved in the assaults or had knowledge they were taking place and did not report them. Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau began their investigation in September when a concerned teacher observed bruising on a student and contacted school administration and Child Protective Services (CPS).
Detectives immediately conducted interviews and examined all available evidence. Detectives believe that six juvenile victims were assaulted by FCPS staff who provided direct instruction and support to students with intellectual disabilities between April and September 2019. The abuse ranged from assault and battery to cruelty and injuries to children.
On Monday, evidence was presented to a grand jury who indicted the following individuals on the charges below.
• Cylmeera Gastav, 48, of Herndon, was charged with one felony count of cruelty and injuries to children and three misdemeanor counts of assault and battery.
• Cecilia Maria Benavides, 59, of Alexandria, was charged with one felony count of cruelty and injuries to children and 12 counts of misdemeanor assault and battery.
During their investigation, detectives learned that criminal acts toward students also occurred during the 2018-2019 school year. The complaints of suspected abuse were reported to the previous principal of Freedom Hill Elementary School, Scott Bloom, during his tenure in the 2018-2019 school year. However, the complaints were not subsequently reported to CPS or the police, as required by law. This led to a charge of fail to report against Bloom, 39, of Reston.
The current Freedom Hill Elementary School principal and administration reported the concerns immediately and the FCPS administration and security has been fully cooperative with the entire investigation.
The Va. Code Ann. § 16.1-301 prohibits our Police Department from disclosing to the community law enforcement records concerning juveniles. The code section also provides that such disclosures may only occur under certain circumstances, generally related to the disclosure of the information by order of the court or to individuals involved with the juvenile in the criminal justice system. As such, we are prohibited by law from disclosing further information regarding this case.
Victim specialists from our Victim Services Division have been assigned to ensure that the identified victims are receiving appropriate resources and assistance.
We ask anyone who witnesses this kind of behavior towards anyone, but especially toward members of our community who are non-verbal or have special needs, to call 9-1-1 immediately. If you suspect someone you know has been the victim of a crime or has committed such a crime, please contact our Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 3. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), by text – Type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411, and by web – Click HERE. Download our Mobile tip411 App “Fairfax Co Crime Solvers”. Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars if their information leads to an arrest.
For further information, watch our news conference here.
For ongoing updates, please read our blog and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @FairfaxCountyPD.
(Original release date: December 16, 2019)
Media Alert: FCPS Employees Charged with Assaulting Children with Intellectual Disabilities
McLean Police District: Three Fairfax County Public Schools employees are facing charges after an investigation found that several children with intellectual disabilities at Freedom Hill Elementary School in Vienna had been assaulted. Join Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr., Fairfax County Police Chief as he updates the community on the investigation along with a FCPS representative.
Public Safety Headquarters
12099 Government Center Parkway
Press Room: 2nd Floor
Fairfax, Virginia 22035
Monday, Dec. 16, at 3:30 p.m.
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