WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The Cranston High School West psychologist accused of not reporting sexual assault accusations against a teacher was formally arraigned Tuesday morning.
George Blessing had a not guilty plea entered on his behalf to a misdemeanor charge of failing to report sexual abuse of a child in an educational program. The judge allowed him to continue to be released on personal recognizance.
Cranston police said a student at Cranston West told Blessing on February 1 that science teacher Charles Pearson had sexually assaulted her. Blessing was required by law to report any allegation of sexual assault within 24 hours.
It wasn’t until late March that police said they learned of the allegations against Pearson, when four students came forward. Pearson was charged with 12 counts of second-degree sexual assault, and police said at least one of the alleged sexual assaults happened after Blessing was first notified. Police have called Blessing’s actions “inexcusable” and “perplexing.”
“This particular child reported abuse, and this professional psychologist failed to report. That’s concerning on many levels,” said Peg Langhammer, the executive director of Day One. “I think one of the worst things that happened as a result of this case is that another child was abused after the report was made.”
Langhammer said her organization goes into schools to train personnel on mandated reporting laws, and also seeks to educate the public. Rhode Island law requires all people who are made aware of abuse of a child to report it to the Department of Children, Youth and Families.
In this case, police have said they appears to be a pattern of alleged inappropriate behavior by Pearson dating back to 2001, when he was accused of inappropriate touching at the Rhode Island Training School and resigned. He was never charged in that case and was later hired at Cranston West.
“This case goes way back. There are several institutions I think that really need to be held accountable,” Langhammer said.
Col. Michael Winquist said Tuesday he would not comment further on the details of Pearson’s case, because it is now in the prosecutorial phase.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Education, George Blessing has a valid certificate as a School Psychologist that is set to expire in 2022. The certificate requires him to have an advance degree in school psychology, but not a Department of Health license to practice psychology.
As he left court Tuesday morning, Blessing declined to comment on the case. He is due back in court on May 8.
Blessing and Pearson remain on paid administrative leave from their positions at Cranston West. Chief Operating Office Ray Votto said an email reminder has been sent out to employees about mandated reporting, and an internal review is underway.