LONG BRANCH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Administrators at a Long Branch school met with more than 100 outraged parents Monday morning after two maintenance workers were suspended for allegedly tying up a group of students inside a school bathroom.
Parents showed up early at Gregory Elementary School to escort their children and to demand answers from officials.
Over the weekend rumors started flying on Facebook that maintenance workers allegedly tied up and gagged a group of four boys inside a bathroom at the school on Thursday.
One of the workers allegedly took a photo during the incident.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports
“I’m very shocked that they didn’t immediately send out some notification or have phone calls go out to parents,” Ronald Coleman told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider. “It was shocking that I had to find out from Facebook.”
Coleman, who was alarmed by the allegations, kept his 5-year-old son out of school.
“My son actually has no idea. I didn’t let him come to school today,” Coleman said. “I just don’t feel comfortable with him being here until I know what’s going on.”
School surveillance cameras apparently show the workers going inside the boys bathroom to make repairs.
Moments later, four students – all under the age of 10 – went inside and told their parents they were then tied up and gagged.
One of the students suggested it may have started as a prank or a game.
As soon as he found out, Superintendent Michael Salvatore said he suspended the workers with pay and police launched an investigation.
Salvatore told CBS 2 he was informed that the two employees may have intended to “horse around” with the kids, but said the alleged behavior can never be endorsed or tolerated.
“It has been expressed to us this was in jest without malice and I hope that’s accurate but in the end, unfortunately, the misconduct leads us to provide some consequences for the employees,” he said.
Salvatore called the alleged conduct of the two workers inappropriate and akin to bullying.
“There were adults in the room that made a poor decision,” Salvatore said. “I too have young children in this school district…there’s nothing possibly that I can do, especially for the parents directly involved that’s going to ease what happened.”
Richard Incremona of the Monmounth County Prosecutor’s Office said the district has taken action and is cooperating with investigators.
“There is no evidence to suggest that the incident is sexual in nature,” Incremona said.
But parents said they still aren’t getting the assurance they need.
“If I can’t go to work and know that my kids are safe, I’ve got a problem with that,” parent Jennifer Rodriguez said.
“I have three kids in the system, I need to worry about my kids and who’s protecting them in the hallways when they go to the bathroom,” parent Molly Guzman said. “You think your son or child is in a safe environment, they’re with them seven hours a day. I don’t feel safe.”
“I’m scared now to go to school” student Rey Guzman said. “I’m actually scared to go to the bathroom, because then the adults can come in and just do the same thing to me.”
On Monday afternoon parents received a vague letter from the school referring to an “incident” but providing no explanation as to what actually happened. The letter included a sign-up sheet for counseling.
Parents also told CBS 2 that police have at least one picture of the incident taken by one of the janitors involved.
The children’s names have not been released, but CBS 2 has been told that all four of them are back in school.
School officials maintain that the incident was part of a joke that went too far.
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