Senator Respicio Accuses Superintendent Underwood of “Drastically Lacking” In Leadership

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Guam – In the wake of this past week’s Legislative Oversight Hearing on bullying in the island’s Public Schools, Senator Rory Respicio is accusing DOE Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Underwood of “drastically lacking” in leadership. In a release he says that if Underwood “is incapable of carrying out her job duties, she shouldn’t keep her job.”

The Senator’s release states:

“Obviously,  there  are  key  components  drastically  lacking  in  her leadership  if  this  is  the  environment  our  GDOE  students,  parents  and  employees  have  to  live  in. Something has to be done and I proposed an option.  If she is incapable of carrying out her job duties, she shouldn’t keep her job.  Students and parents falling through the cracks are the ones paying the price for her shortcomings.”

In addition, the Senator says he sent a letter Wednesday to Superintendent Underwood “demanding” that she address any “misunderstandings” her employees may have about child abuse reporting requirements set in Guam law.

Read Senator Respicio’s letter to DOE Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Underwood

In his letter to Underwood, Respicio writes, “The faculty and staff of GDOE seem to be operating based on the misunderstanding that they need not report incidents of child abuse to Child Protective Services or the Guam Police Department unless the suspected perpetrator is the affected child’s parent or guardian, in order to prevent the child from returning to a harmful environment.  However, Guam law requires that all suspected incidents of child abuse must be reported to CPS or GPD, regardless of who the alleged perpetrator might be.”

Senator Respicio’s release is printed in its entirety below:

SENATOR RESPICIO DEMANDS GDOE COMPLY  WITH CHILD ABUSE REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

(Hagåtña, Guam – For Immediate Release)
Senator Rory J. Respicio issued a letter this afternoon to Guam Department of Education (GDOE) Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood demanding that the superintendent address the misunderstandings of her employees regarding child abuse reporting requirements set in Guam law.

In his letter to Underwood, Senator Respicio writes, “The faculty and staff of GDOE seem to be operating based on the misunderstanding that they need not report incidents of child abuse to Child Protective Services or the Guam Police Department unless the suspected perpetrator is the affected child’s parent or guardian, in order to prevent the child from returning to a harmful environment.  However, Guam law requires that all suspected incidents of child abuse must be reported to CPS or GPD, regardless of who the alleged perpetrator might be.”

These issues have recently been brought to light during a legislative oversight hearing on bullying and other issues facing GDOE.  Senators sat shocked during two back‐to‐back evening hearings as parents, students and concerned community members aired their complaints regarding the deplorable conditions unfolding in our island’s public schools.

“It is imperative that you work with the Attorney General’s Office to coordinate a system‐wide employee orientation regarding the provisions of Guam law.  Incidents of child abuse must not be taken lightly and it  is  unconscionable  that  some  cases  may  be  overlooked  based  on  bureaucratic  misunderstandings,” Respicio’s letter concludes.

Senator Respicio commented, “Dr. Underwood accepted full responsibility for all the events that have taken place under her watch and provided generic responses to parents’ and senators’ questions on what measures will be taken to quickly and effectively remedy instances of extreme bullying, and even sexual assault  at  various  public  schools.    Obviously,  there  are  key  components  drastically  lacking  in  her leadership  if  this  is  the  environment  our  GDOE  students,  parents  and  employees  have  to  live  in.

Something has to be done and I proposed an option.  If she is incapable of carrying out her job duties, she shouldn’t keep her job.  Students and parents falling through the cracks are the ones paying the price for her shortcomings.”