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Preschool bathroom assault investigation underway, Richmond mom 'wants answers'

Posted at 5:56 PM, Feb 07, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Richmond mother has come forward with claims that a child assaulted her five-year-old daughter in a preschool bathroom at Blackwell Preschool.

"I want answers, and I need answers, and I wish that it didn't have to go this far for me to get answers," Shayla Roberts said. "People need to understand that it's not okay. I'm not okay. I’m bringing my daughter to school to be safe."

Roberts said she noticed something was wrong when she gave her daughter a bath the night of January 23, the same day of the alleged assault.

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Shayla Roberts wants to know what happened to her daughter at preschool.

She said she immediately took her child to a hospital where doctors confirmed the child had suffered injuries to her private area.

Roberts said she reported the incident to the school principal the very next day on January 24, but since then, she claimed she has not been told what happened, nor how it could have happened to her child.

Seeking answers, Roberts went before the Richmond School Board Monday night to make an emotional public comment.

"She’s only 5 years old, and nothing has been done about this. My daughter doesn’t want to go to school anymore," Roberts told the Richmond School Board and Superintendent Jason Kamras. "I need to know what to do to protect my child."

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Shayla Roberts speaks before the Richmond School Board.

Following Roberts' comments, Richmond School Board member Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed said the school administration never notified the school board of the allegation. She said the board should have been given that information, per school policy.

“We haven’t seen a threat assessment on what the parent stated today," Harris-Muhammed said during the meeting. "What are we doing? Are we truly making safety an issue?”

In an email to CBS 6 Tuesday, Harris-Muhammed clarified her comments saying, "We need the facts to comb through and not social media reports but actual and factual information to determine as a school board if any employees should and/or must be held accountable. Finally, we did not receive a threat assessment or a critical incident report from anyone on the administrative team."

After learning about the allegation, other Blackwell Elementary School parents began raising concerns about a lack of communication from the Blackwell school administration.

Treysi Knox, whose son attends Blackwell, said she believed parents should've learned about the allegation from the principal, not through a public comment during a school board meeting.

"The minute this was reported, there should have been something sent out to reassure that it was being investigated, the child was getting the support she needed or something," Knox said in a message to CBS 6.

On Tuesday afternoon, just before 3 p.m., the school principal sent an "urgent" email to Blackwell families confirming an alleged assault was reported and a law enforcement investigation was underway.

The Richmond Public Schools administration said it was taking the allegations "very seriously" and was working with Richmond Police.

In an email to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers, the school system could not confirm whether an incident took place in a school bathroom. When asked about school protocols for bathroom supervision of pre-schoolers and protocols for communicating incidents to families, an RPS spokesperson said they were “looking into this.”

Richmond Police sent CBS 6 the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

"RPD has investigated this matter and appropriate assistance has been offered. This matter pertains to elementary school students who are minors. There is no further information that will be provided at this time."

For Roberts, answers cannot come fast enough.

“Someone needs to be accountable for what happened to my daughter," she said.

Roberts said she personally met with Superintendent Kamras Tuesday morning, following her public comments to school board, to discuss next steps. She said she hasn't sent her child back to Blackwell Preschool since the alleged incident.

Roberts said the administration is working to figure out a school reassignment for her daughter.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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