Okaloosa School District officials speak out regarding child abuse allegations

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OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - As an investigation into child abuse allegations involving the Okaloosa County School District continues, district officials are now speaking out and say they're looking to make changes.

Monday, before a regularly scheduled school board meeting, Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson held a press conference to publicly address the investigation for the first time.

"I want to assure that the district's staff has been working to review our policies and procedures to ensure that any needed changes or improvements are developed and implemented," said Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson.

She continued by saying, "We are working close with the school board to bring about recommended changes to our board policy."

She claimed the school board is not avoiding questions, but rather limited in their ability to comment due to the ongoing investigation with the sheriff's office.

"I feel like there have been some statements made by people where it's more defensive rather than acknowledging responsibility and I have a problem with that. They need to acknowledge publicly and that there are problems," said Angela Hager, who has a student who attends Silver Sands School where the accused teacher was transferred to.

Superintendent Jackson ended the press conference by announcing she has no intentions of resigning from her position.

Following the press conference, the school board proceeded with their meeting, which drew more attention than usual.

The school board passed three motions.

The first two regarded communication polices when it came to notifying not only school board officials but also parents of students who civil rights have been violated.

Board members agreed that if the superintendent is notified of an investigation within the district, [the superintendent] must notify the board's chair who will then seek direction from the school board's attorney on how to best inform the rest of the members.

They also agreed that the superintendent must immediately notify the parents if a student "is a victim of cruelty, abuse or harassment or that the student's civil right have been violated."

A third motion addressed the suspension of an employee charged with a felony occurring at school.

The board approved 4-1 to suspend a teacher without pay until the issue is resolved. They also added that if the employee is found not guilty, they would then receive back pay and compensation for the attorney fees.