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More than sturdy walls to keep students safe

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - It looks like the Department of Education has more than just poor facilities to worry about. Recent cases and allegations of inappropriate touching on school grounds cause reason for concern.

It's going to take more than sturdy walls to keep the island's students safe. According to DOE deputy superintendent Rob Malay, the recent cases of inappropriate touching on school grounds is not something to be taken lightly. "School safety is absolutely the most important thing for us whether it be facility whether it be people whatever it might be that is something that we take very seriously and as soon as we receive word from the school which was very early, we had the employee report down here so we that we could conduct our internal investigation and proceed from there based on whatever it is we find regarding the specific incident," he said.

It was last month police arrested 72-year-old Alfredo "Fred" Nicolas, Jr., a contracted custodian at Liguan Elementary School. Nicolas is accused of following a 5-year-old boy into the bathroom stall and reaching inside the victim's pants and rubbing the boy's genitals. Last week, Inarajan Middle School aide Jesse Santiago Sanchez was arrested for harassment after allegedly inappropriately touching a 13-year-old female student's outer thigh. Malay assures parents that both cases are being thoroughly investigated and both the custodian and school aide have been removed from school grounds.

"I get updates throughout the course of the day we're following it very closely because our kids are definitely our number one customer and their the ones we're in business for and we have to make sure we do everything we can to protect them, whether it be giving them a safe school or making sure the people on the campuses are acting accordingly and treating them the way they should be treated we take all of that very, very seriously. We act very quickly," he added.

Malay assures parents that support staff are required to go through police clearances, drug tests, and personnel screenings before they can move on to the interview process. In addition to these screenings, Malay asks that parents take preventative measures including talking with their children. "Sometimes when we don't take that little bit of time to talk about how the day went and what went on, then things get missed and then they become much bigger than what they need to become," Malay said.

An arraignment is scheduled for Nicolas on February 8 at 1pm.

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