Maplewood Police and Fire Schools / Kids South Orange

REPORT: Former Paraprofessional Sentenced for Lewd Behavior at Jefferson School in 2017

A 22-year-old former elementary school paraprofessional has been sentenced to 10 years in New Jersey State Prison. The man was arrested in 2017 and charged, after video and images on his phone showed him masturbating in the hallways of Jefferson School and included an inappropriate photograph of a Jefferson student.

According to Patch, the man, Kenneth Palmer, entered a guilty plea on Oct. 15, 2018, on multiple counts of sexual assault by contact and one count of endangering the welfare of a child for taking the ‘upskirt’ image of the child. The Superior Court Judge John Zunic sentenced Palmer to 10 years, seven of which are subject to the No Early Release Act.

Palmer worked in the South Orange-Maplewood School District at Jefferson School from February 2017 until September 2017. The district was notified of his arrest on December 5, 2017, but law enforcement directed the district not to discuss the matter during the investigation. When the investigation was closed and Palmer was charged in April 2018, the district informed the Jefferson School community. The story came to light publicly in June 2018.

In July 2018, the district hired a new vendor to provide paraprofessional services, saying the vendor would provide greater oversight. However, parents present at the meeting advocated for moving paraprofessionals back “in house.” Reesa Salomon and Ann Leeb of the Special Education Parents Advisory Committee told the Board of Education:  “It is time for this district to plan to bring paraprofessional services back in house and take full responsibility for the people who work so directly with our children.”

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