School janitor accused of spying on students
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
On Friday, a janitor at Scales Elementary School in Brentwood, contracted by Ohio-based GCA Services Group, was accused of spying on female students from the ceiling of a school restroom.
About 400-shocked parents listened in the cafeteria as Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney delivered the news at a last-minute called parent meeting at 6:30 p.m. that evening.
Later that night, authorities charged full-time custodian Victor Manuel Alvarado, 48, of Antioch, Tenn. with observation without consent.
Williamson County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident.
Alvarado is being held at the county jail on $75,000 bond. Yesterday, General Sessions Judge Denise Andre appointed a public defender to represent him.
On Friday, a maintenance worker observed Alvarado standing on a concrete platform located in the ceiling above the girl’s bathroom area at the school Looney said, emphasizing that Alvarado was not “caught in the act,” although his behavior seemed suspicious.
“No conviction has been made,” Looney said.
Alvarado was fingerprinted by an FBI-certified agency, according to state policy, when he began working for the district in August 2010 as a contractor.
Alvarado does not have a previous criminal record. He has served as a custodial worker at Scales for about two and a half years.
Looney told parents that he was able to view a videotape of Alvarado entering a bathroom storage closet but not exiting for an “extended period of time.”
He said that after viewing the videotape and hearing Scales Principal Molly Dalgarn’s report from the school’s maintenance worker, he immediately contacted authorities.
As previously reported by the Herald, Looney asked parents to try to talk about the situation with their children, as they felt appropriate during the parent meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes.
Parents, who had just been notified by e-mail and telephone two hours before the meeting, were visibly upset.
One parent, who requested not to be identified, commended the district for acting promptly and being open.
Looney said that Alvarado is prohibited from entering school premises. GCA Services verified that Alvarado was fired from his job.
Neil A. Guliano, Corporate Vice President of Marketing of GCA Services Group, Inc. submitted the following statement about the incident:
“All proper background checks were conducted and documentation was in place. Upon learning of the incident at Scales Elementary, GCA Education Services immediately terminated Mr. Alvarado. GCA is fully supporting law enforcement and school officials to resolve this matter.”
Looney noted that the School Resource Officer (SRO)on campus aided in handling the incident.
“The SRO was able to secure the janitor right away and preserve evidence.”
SROs were hired for the first time this school year to work in elementary school buildings. After the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., county leaders banned together quickly to pass a resolution that funded the hiring of about 32 SROs as full time officers in all elementary schools in the county.
Looney said that the district is currently reviewing processes and procedures regarding contract employees and reflecting on any changes to be made.
On Monday, school continued “without a hitch,” said Looney, who was present for morning arrival at Scales.
Additional counselors provided support on Monday for those students who requested it. Looney said that about a handful of students approached counselors about the incident.
“I am impressed with school staff and how quickly they acted and handled the situation,” Looney said.
A Scales parent said that her child is “creeped out” by the situation. “My daughter said a lot of people were talking about it at school, and she told them that it was over, and that we needed to move on.”
She also feels that it’s a reality that parents and children should listen to their instincts.
“Even though everything seems okay, we have to question.”
“The reality is that as much as I want to protect my children. I can’t be with them all the time. I hope that this situation is a wake up call and will lead to the implementation of safer policies in the future such as better backgrounds checks.”
She explained that even parents and school volunteers are required to undergo a background check to attend field trips and to participate in volunteer activities at schools, which last until a child is in high school.
“It’s a false sense of protection. There should be a follow-up on background checks. A background check doesn’t last forever.”
“It’s important to instill in children to use their own instincts and be aware of their surroundings. If something doesn’t seem right, go with your instincts and tell an adult.”
“I’m grateful it wasn’t worse and no children were hurt.”
Posted on: 1/16/2014