Two school administrators in Reynoldsburg faced the end of their careers this past spring because of one incident and one phone call that wasn't made.
Hydia Green, former assistant principal of Reynoldsburg's Baldwin Road STEM Junior High School, said she lost her 16-year career in May and hasn't been able to get another job for not reporting a sexual encounter in mid-April between two students, a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy.
The school district placed Green on administrative leave May 3 in connection with the incident.
By all appearances, Green said, what happened between two students April 18 was consensual. Neither student said anything to the contrary that afternoon.
"My one regret is, I should've made that little girl write down her story before she left that day," Green said in a recent interview.
A Reynoldsburg police detective eventually concluded, as Green did, that the boy and girl were both willing participants. No one was charged.
But the girl wrote down a very different story the following day -- that the boy had forced her. Though Green saw the girl's allegation, district records show, she didn't report it to police or Franklin County Children Services, as state law requires. Other district officials didn't see it for a week, at which point they called Reynoldsburg police. Green maintains that she followed the advice of someone higher up in the district.
"They told me I called the wrong person," Green said.
According to district policy, as soon as a student hints at sexual assault, employees are required to contact police and the district's Title IX investigator. Under Ohio law, teachers and school employees are "mandated reporters" -- professionals who must inform authorities when a sexual assault might have happened. They can be prosecuted for not doing so.
Reynoldsburg schools officials didn't comment for this story, but they provided personnel files and documents from the investigation when The Dispatch and ThisWeek Reynoldsburg News requested them under the Ohio Open Records Act.
According to that information, a Baldwin Road teacher called the principal's office on April 18 to say that a girl wasn't in class. Green searched the building and found her with a boy in a small conference room next to the main office. Green said she could see through the closed door's window that they were backed up against the wall, with the girl's skirt hiked up and the boy's hand underneath it.
"Before they saw me, I saw them," Green said last week. "Initially, they came out saying, 'Ms. Green, we're sorry. We're sorry.' "
Green called their parents and then telephoned the district's hearing officer, Sharon Prentice.
"She said, 'Give 'em 10 days (suspension) and send 'em to me,'" Green said.
She also called her boss, Principal Michelle Watts, who was off that day for a family emergency. Watts advised Green to get written statements, which she did the next morning.
"(H)e pushed me into the corner and started lifting my dress up, touching my private spot," the girl wrote. "I kept saying '(name redacted) stop,' and pushing his arms away but nobody heard me." The girl also wrote that she yelled.
Green pulled her aside.
"I asked her, 'Did you yell for help?' " Green said in an interview. "She said, 'Yeah, I yelled.' You were 10 feet from an adult. If you had yelled, every one of us would've heard you."
Even though Watts had requested the written statements, she later told then-Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning that she didn't read them.
Meanwhile, Green followed Prentice's advice, given before the girl wrote that she'd been forced into the sexual encounter. Both students were suspended and a hearing to consider expulsion took place April 26, a week after the girl wrote her statement.
"When the little girl got to the hearing, she said, 'He forced me,' " Green said. "It sounded like he had actually attempted rape."
Green and Prentice went to Security Director Nicholas Keisel with the girl's written statement. This was the first he had heard about it. He called police.
"I indicated that the girl was reporting a sexual assault, and our personal beliefs on the matter did not matter regarding how we need to respond," Keisel wrote in a May 16 report.
The next week, on May 3, the central office summoned Green and Watts to question them and place them on leave for not reporting the incident.
The district warned them not to communicate at all with students, families or other employees about their employment or the investigation, or else they would be fired.
"I couldn't talk to a soul," Green said. "Parents, teachers were emailing me. I couldn't respond to any of them."
Before the May 16 Reynoldsburg Board of Education meeting, the district contacted Green's lawyer to find out whether she planned to resign. She asked whether she should speak on her own behalf, but was told it would do no good. The options: Resign or be fired.
She and Watts resigned, effective May 31.
"I didn't want the termination on my record," Green said, adding that she's still paying down student loans for her master's degree.
The district paid her through May in exchange for an agreement not to sue.
Green says she lost her next job when her new employer plugged her name into a search engine.
Unable to find employment, she went back to her hometown of New Orleans to take care of her elderly parents.
"It really hurt me," she said. "That's not who I am."
Watts declined to comment on the April 18 incident, saying she needed to speak with her attorney.
Reynoldsburg police closed the case without charges. According to detective Tim Doersam, in a May 22 supplement to the police report: "Ms. Green observed part of the incident firsthand and believed the incident to be consensual. My investigation also indicates this was a consensual encounter. This case is closed."