3 Former School Employees Indicted for Abuse of 6 Non-Verbal Students

Two of the former employees allegedly abused the students while the other, a principal, did not report suspected abuse complaints from other staff members.

3 Former School Employees Indicted for Abuse of 6 Non-Verbal Students

(Photo: Fairfax County police)

Several employees at a Vienna, Virginia, school are facing charges after police determined six non-verbal children with varying intellectual disabilities had been assaulted.

Detectives said the children were assaulted at Freedom Hill Elementary School between April and September, ABC News reports. Police opened an investigation in September after a teacher noticed bruising on one of the students and contacted school administrators and Child Protective Services (CPS).

Three current and former Fairfax County Public Schools employees were indicted by a grand jury Monday. Cylmeera Gastav, 48, was charged with one felony count of cruelty and injuries to children and three misdemeanor counts of assault and battery. Cecilia Maria Benavides, 59, was charged with one felony county of cruelty and injuries to children and 12 counts of misdemeanor assault and battery.

The two women, who have both left the school system, worked as instructional support staff in the school.

Scott Bloom, 39, the previous principal of the school, was charged with failure to report after detectives found additional complaints of suspected abuse were made to Bloom during the 2018-2019 school year but that he did not report them to CPS or police, as required by law.

Bloom, who left Freedom Hill for a position at Haycock Elementary School, has been on administrative leave since September, according to WTOP.

The school’s current principal reported the concerns immediately, police said. Fairfax County Public Schools chief operating officer Marty Smith said the school district “was first made aware of the allegations in September and took immediate steps to address the situation.”

Fairfax County police Major Ed O’Carroll called the case “heartbreaking” during a news conference Monday afternoon.

“This case is shocking,” he said, adding it involved “unacceptable conduct by community members who were in a position of trust, caring for the most vulnerable members of our society: children in an elementary school setting, children with intellectual disabilities.”

You can watch the full news conference here.

About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy’s mother, brother, sister-in-law and a handful of cousins are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her husband, her son and her dog.

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