An investigation into Hartford Schools by the state's Office of the Child Advocate has found that a former high-ranking school administrator had a history of inappropriate contact with students, yet continued to be promoted through the system.
The investigation found that for about a decade, Hartford schools did not have a system in place to address reports of abuse or neglect effectively. This, said child advocate Sarah Eagan, enabled Eduardo Genao to remain in the system until he abruptly resigned last year, amid allegations he had texted inappropriate messages to a 13-year-old student.
"Some of the things that we read were shocking -- and heartbreaking," Eagan said. "That's really the impression that I had both as the child advocate, and as a parent."
Eagan said the allegations against Genao go as far back as 2007, only two years after he was first hired in the district as a principal. The state's Department of Children and Families had investigated Genao at that time and found that he engaged in what's called grooming, which involves preparing a minor for sexual contact.
Here's a clip from the report, highlighting OCA's findings from a 2010 investigation -- findings the agency found again the Hartford case:
Eagan’s office spent nine months looking into the district, and found an assortment of problems beyond the incident involving Genao. School employees who engaged in misconduct were not held accountable, suspicious activities went unreported, and staff training was inadequate, the report found. Many of the children involved had disabilities.
"The findings were grave, pervasive, concerning," Eagan said. "I can say that the district and the city have been responding aggressively and urgently."
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin requested the investigation last year after Genao was arrested for risk of injury to a minor, a felony. He's pleaded not guilty, and is due in court on February 27.
In a statement, Bronin said the report revealed a "decade-long failure to protect children" and the district must "take immediate, aggressive steps to fix it."
Hartford’s acting Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez also expressed concern with the findings, and called on her district to "make fundamental changes."
"Today we are announcing a series of steps we will begin taking immediately to correct the problems the Child Advocate uncovered in her review," Torres-Rodriguez wrote in a statement.
While investigating Hartford schools, the child advocate also found that DCF had outdated systems in place to document, track and address the problems happening in Hartford. The family of the young girl who allegedly received the text messages from Genao is suing the district in state court, claiming negligence.