A child abuse expert says the decision to remove the entire staff of an elementary school rocked by sexual abuse allegations was a unique move that will help investigators gather better information from both former teachers and students. (Feb. 9)
(an interview with attorney and child abuse expert Mary Jo McGrath. Dateline Santa Barbara, Calif. The b-roll was shot today in Los Angeles outside the school.)"This situation is highly unprecedented. You've got a situation that's gone on for potentially decades and you've got a lot of children involved. In order to-- there's a number of reasons to take the action he took. For one thing, it gives children an opportunity for a fresh start, but even more importantly, given this is a legal case, you have to preserve the evidence pool if you will. To do that, removing the adults so they don't have access to the children is a good move. I think that given the unusual situation that they're encountering in terms of the abuse cases I've dealt with in the many years I've been doing this it's way at the top of the list. You don't hear of bondage in the school rooms and other things. So, I think it's such a drastic situation that it really did give everyone an opportunity to get away from the immediacy of the problem. Take that whole staff, put them at a school that isn't up and running yet so they have an opportunity to be interviewed and everything and the children have an opportunity to think this is a new situation. There's that disruption, but those teachers who were doing a good job they also were observing what was happening in the environment. We don't even know what they knew yet. They may not even know what they knew. So the opportunity to get them in a situation-- it's kind of like sealing off the crime scene. I think it was an appropriate thing to do. I think some of the challenges are to keep the conversations limited. You don't want the children talking about this situation in uncontrolled settings. These children are actually witnesses, they're actually the people who are going to tell you what happened, what did they see happen to their friends or suspect. So you don't want them engaging in conversations about it, unless it's with a trained investigators so that the information they provide can later be used appropriately."