South Florida Sun Sentinel | by Scott Travis | March 2, 2021
A Broward teacher has lost his job after allegations that he inappropriately touched at least seven fifth grade girls.
But Krishna Boodhoo, 63, who taught fifth grade science at Riverland Elementary in Fort Lauderdale, won’t face criminal charges. The State Attorney’s Office decided in October not to prosecute, saying there were too many inconsistencies in the children’s statements to result in a conviction.
Boodhoo, who couldn’t be reached for comment, is now appealing his firing, which was approved by the School Board on Feb. 17. He denies the allegations, said Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, which represents him.
“We are taking it to a hearing,” Fusco said, saying school district investigations “are horrible, and we don’t get all the evidence.”
In a report recommending his firing, administrators outlined numerous serious allegations but didn’t say there were no criminal charges.
Board member Sarah Leonardi, whose district includes Riverland, said administrators assured her the case had been referred to law enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office, but she said she was never told about the decision not to prosecute. She said the School Board should have had that information before deciding whether to fire him.
“I feel like I’ve been lied to,” Leonardi said.
The Office of Chief Communications Officer Kathy Koch said, “Mr. Boodhoo has requested a hearing with the Division of Administrative Hearings, so litigation remains ongoing,” adding that the district doesn’t comment on “potential, pending or ongoing litigation.”
The case started in February 2020, after a mother called Riverland administrators and alleged that Boodhoo had touched her fifth grade daughter’s breasts, according to reports by the school district and Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
The incident was alleged to have happened in December 2019. The mother said her daughter told her about it after the mom noticed bruising. The girl told her mom that the teacher had forcefully grabbed her by the arm, and she then told her about the alleged sexual abuse from December, according to reports.
The fifth grader then told the principal that “Mr. Boodhoo reached into her jacket and touched her breast and said that Mr. Boodhoo’s hand was between her jacket and her shirt,” the police report said. Boodhoo “supposedly did it quickly” and after she lifted up her arms and hands, he moved his hand, the report says.
The girl said there were other victims as well. Law enforcement interviewed several other students, who reported being abused, witnessing abuse or both. All were friends of the first girl, according to a police report.
One girl said that while she held an iPad in front of her chest‚ the teacher “quickly brushed her breast,” and another time he “forcibly lowered the zipper on her sweater, causing a scratch on her chest,” according to a district report. Another girl said the teacher placed his “private part” on her elbow while she was writing at her desk, according to a district report.
“During the course of this investigation, forensic interviews of the student victims were conducted by the Broward County Sexual Assault Treatment Center Child Protection Team where sexual abuse was founded,” according to the district report to the School Board.
But a State Attorney’s Office report raised doubts about the students’ stories.
The fifth grader, after initially reporting that the teacher touched her breasts, said during a subsequent investigation at a sexual assault center that he never did. She said she was cold and had her arms inside her jacket and the teacher reached into her jacket but didn’t actually touch her, according to the State Attorney’s Office memo.
In the same interview, the girl was asked if the teacher “did anything to make her feel uncomfortable or did anything inappropriate,” and she responded, “No,” according to the State Attorney’s memo.
The memo described inconsistencies from other students as well. One girl gave conflicting answers about whether the teacher touched her on her clothing or on her skin. Another girl described incidents starting in the classroom in late December 2019, a time when school was out for winter break, Another girl said in one interview that the teacher touched her buttocks, but in another interview that he “touched her thigh and back of leg, but never her buttocks.”
“I am declining this case because there is not a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” wrote Lauren Covitz, assistant state attorney. “This is heavily due to the numerous conflicts between what the subject is alleged to have done and what the witnesses have slated.”
Leonardi, the School Board member, said there could be reasons for the children’s inconsistent statements, including trauma associated with abuse and language barriers, as most of the children were immigrants.
“Either way it’s a tragedy,” she said. “It’s a tragedy if someone is fired after being falsely accused, because that can ruin their life. And it’s a tragedy if they were molested.”
Boodhoo has worked for the district since 2005. His salary this school year was $84,019, according to district records. According to his personal website, he a native of Guyana in South America, obtaining a science degree from the University of Guyana.
He wrote on his website he has a master’s of science from Nova Southeastern University in Davie and was an “education superintendent” in Guyana for five years before coming to the United States.
Photo: Krishna Boodhoo, a teacher at Riverland Elementary in Fort Lauderdale, is pictured in a screenshot from his website. He was recently fired after allegations that he acted inappropriately with students. The State Attorney’s Office declined to pursue criminal charges.