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Sandra Brower Did Not Report Possible Sex Abuse Of 4-year-old Pupil, Prosecutor Says

Former assistant superintendent of Wall Schools faces three-count criminal indictment

As the story is updated, Patch readers can find the newest information on Wall Patch.

Update 2:58 p.m.: Sandra Brower pleaded not guilty to the three charges brought against her during an appearance before Judge Francis J. Vernoia at the Monmouth County Courthouse in Freehold on Monday afternoon. No bail was set and Brower was released. She is scheduled to appear in court again on June 10 at 1:30 p.m. 

Update 12:10 p.m.: The charges that a Wall Township teacher sexually abused a 4-year-old special needs student were unsustained following an investigation by the Wall Township Police, Christopher Gramiccioni, acting Monmouth County Prosecutor said Monday afternoon.

The former assistant superintendent of Wall Township Schools was indicted Monday morning on charges she failed to immediately report a possible sexual assault of a 4-year-old special needs student by a teacher and then lied to police and tried to cover up her inaction, according to the indictment.

Sandra Brower, 45, of Allenwood-Lakewood Road, is charged with second-degree official misconduct, third-degree hindering apprehension and fourth-degree obstruction, according to the indictment.

Brower was the assistant superintendent of Wall Township schools until November 2011. She is currently the superintendent of Lacey Township Schools in Ocean County. The Lacey school board last week abruptly put Brower on paid administrative leave at an emergency session, citing a personnel matter.

It was unclear Monday whether Brower’s indictment was related to the raid of former Wall Township schools superintendent James Habel’s Point Pleasant home in September.

"The community has a right to expect their public school officials to act in the best interest of those they represent,'' said Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni. "Those officials are held to the same standards as the general public – lying to or attempting to mislead police, as alleged in the indictment, is not part of our community’s accepted standards.”

Brower declined to comment on Monday, referring questions to an attorney. She did not name the attorney Monday morning.

Daniel Simon, current Wall Schools superintendent, declined to comment on Brower’s indictment.

“This is a criminal investigation being conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office,’’ Simon said. “There really isn’t anything I can comment on right now.’’

John Tavis, former school board president, was taken aback by the news.

“I'm totally shocked,’’ said Tavis, who resigned from the board in March, “I had no inkling. If it happened in 2009 it was before I was on the board. Wall has made great strides in the past two years and I look forward to them continuing in that direction.’’

'Touched His Privates'

The indictment stems from a May 2009 incident when a 4-year-old special needs student said a teacher took him into the bathroom at a “district special education school” and "inappropriately touched his privates," the indictment says.

Wall Primary School is the district’s special education school. The principal of that school and also the interim director of special services at the time was Tracey Maccia. She was not named in the indictment.

Maccia is now the director of special education in the Middlesex County Vocational School District. She declined to comment Monday.

The indictment says Brower was made aware of the incident in a May 7, 2009, email from the school’s principal. The email detailed the possible assault and included a summary of the incident from the child’s mother.

In the email, the mother writes that the child told her that a teacher took him into the bathroom and touched his private parts, according to the indictment.

“He did not change his story or seem to feel different,’’ the mother says in the email, a portion of which is included in the indictment.

The next day — May 8, 2009 — Brower spoke to the school’s principal several times about the possible assault. Then, Brower told a central office employee to forward the parent’s email to the school district’s attorney.

The attorney in May of 2009 was Michael Gross, of the Red Bank firm Kenny Gross Kovats & Parton. A request for comment at his office was not immediately returned Monday morning.

Brower then hit the phones, according to the indictment.

For the next three hours — from 7:25 a.m. to 10:31 a.m. — Brower made at least a dozen calls to various school district officials regarding the possible assault, including a 19-minute call to Habel, the indictment says.

Brower, according to the indictment, called the Board of Education four times for a total of 12 minutes. It is unclear from the indictment if those calls were to individual school board members or to the board’s offices. 

She also called the district’s Information Technology Director twice for a total of 16 minutes. There was an 11-minute call to Gross, the board attorney, and four calls to the school principal, for a total of 11 minutes, the indictment says.

The district’s Director of Information Technology was Jeff Janover, who is still with the district.

Despite the flurry of calls that day, none was made to the Wall Township Police, the indictment says.

All school administrators are bound by law to accept a Memorandum of Agreement between school districts and law enforcement. Among its provisions is the immediate contact of police in the event of a suspected sexual assault of a student.

Wall Police Arrive

Four hours later, at 2:30 p.m., two Wall Township Police officers were dispatched to the district’s central office on 18th Avenue to investigate the possible assault on the young child, the indictment says. The police, acting on a tip from the state Division of Youth and Family Services, talked to Brower, who that day was sitting in for an absent Habel, the indictment says.

Brower “denied having any knowledge of the incidents,’’ surrounding the possible assault, the indictment says.

Brower said she had not heard about the possible assault until moments before the police arrived. Had she known, the indictment says, she would never have let it go on as long as it had and would have immediately called police.

Brower also said the email she received on May 7, 2009, did not provide any information on the possible assault, the indictment says.

Emails Pulled; Staff Shakeup

That night, Brower directed the district information technology director to extract emails of all district central office employees she believed knew about the May 7, 2009, email and her knowledge of the possible assault, the indictment says.

From the evening of May 8, 2009, to June, 2009, Janover repeatedly extracted dozens of emails, the indictment says.

And within weeks of the incident, those central office employees who knew about Brower’s involvement and knowledge of the May 8, 2009, incident were fired, moved into other jobs or forced to resign or retire, the indictment says.

Brower’s Contracts

Brower was hired in 2008, and worked for three years under former superintendent James F. Habel.  In 2011, she was paid a base salary of $165,000, with free family medical and dental insurance and a stipend of $350 a day above her regular salary for filling in for Habel if he was out of district, according to her former contract.

Under her contract in Lacey Township, Brower is paid a base salary of $167,500, plus 12 sick days, 22 vacation days in addition to all school holidays, and free medical and dental insurance, among other perks, according to her contract.

. It was unclear Monday whether the board intended to change Brower’s status.

Habel’s Legacy

Brower’s indictment lengthens the shadow over the Wall School District’s previous administration.

Following an exclusive for unused sick and vacation pay because the former superintendent said he never used a vacation day in his 11 years at the district’s helm, Habel’s home was raided by agents from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

Bernie May 06, 2013 at 04:39 PM
Sick !
Jeff May 07, 2013 at 12:54 AM
Why would she need 22 vacation days when school is only in session 10 months a year, and she already gets school holidays? Who's holding these school districts accountable? And "paid administrative leave"? That's a vacation, in other words. Commit crimes, get a paid vacation. Lovely...

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