On February 8, 2019, Eric Nelson, the principal of an Omaha Public School (OPS) elementary school, Fontenelle Elementary, was arrested after being accused of failing to report a teacher’s suspicious behavior.
In December 2018, Gregory Sedlacek, a first-grade teacher, was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child, a seven-year-old first-grader. The arrest took place after teachers contacted the Nebraska child abuse hotline and reported inappropriate contact between Sedlacek and the student on the school’s playground. Since then, Sedlacek has been charged with six counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child and one count of third-degree sexual assault of a child.
A week after Sedlacek was arrested, Nelson was placed on leave. His arrest came about based on suspicion of felony child abuse and neglect. According to Douglas County Attorney Dough Kleine, teachers informed Nelson of the troubling behavior, but the principal did not make any reports. School officials in Nelson’s position are supposed to inform authorities in such cases, especially when the alleged perpetrator still has access to children.
This is not the first time OPS has had issues with child abuse. In 2011, school officials were criticized for the way they handled suspected abuse at Nathan Hale Middle School. They conducted their own investigation instead of contacting police to look into the possible instances of sexual abuse of students by a teacher. At the time, the OPS officials claimed they did not make a report because they could not prove the allegations. A police investigation only began when a concerned parent notified the state’s child welfare division about the alleged abuse.
After Sedlacek’s arrest, all OPS staff are required to undergo mandatory training on reporting child abuse, which includes watching a video that instructs teachers who suspect child abuse is occurring to report it directly to child protective services, then inform the principal – who is supposed to notify law enforcement.
Not all parents and community members believe Nelson should have been put on leave. There is currently an online petition called “Keep Eric Nelson at Fontenelle Elementary.”
Parents or guardians who have concerns about their child in regard to abuse can call police or the Nebraska child abuse hotline.
At Welsh & Welsh, we believe victims of sexual abuse deserve justice and should have their voices heard. If you or someone you know is seeking legal representation to hold an abuser accountable for their actions, our attorneys are prepared to take the case on. Contact our firm to learn more about how we can help with sensitive legal matters.
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