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More to be done on School 67 case?

   Last November, a special education teacher at Buffalo's Discovery School 67 reported to her principal that a teachers aide fondled a 4-year-old autistic pupil in the school lavatory.

   School officials ruled the claim unfounded and did not report it to police or the boy's South Buffalo parents. But the teacher -- Charlene Harris -- persisted in pushing the case, and eventually got results.

   The aide, John Colazzi, was charged with felony sexual abuse. Joy C. Trotter, who initially ruled the allegations unfounded, was fired by Superintendent James A. Williams.

   The boy's parents, angered that they were first told about the alleged abuse nearly four months after it was reported, are preparing to file a lawsuit against the school district.

   On Thursday, District Attorney Frank J. Clark issued a report stating that Carmela Botticello, the Discovery School principal, should have reported the allegations to police immediately, even if she had doubts about their validity.

   While Botticello's respsonse does not warrant criminal charges, Clark urged school officials to take a closer look at the case and decide if she should face departmental discipline.

   Clark also recommends a series of reforms to ensure that alleged cases of abuse are reported promptly, and that school staff members are aware of their responsibilities under district policy and state law.

   Given the series of errors along the way, is the case now being handled properly? Has Clark given school officials a blueprint for a better system of reporting? Can some good come out of what appears to be a very serious blunder?

   -- Peter Simon



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