Child-Welfare Agency Clears Principal of Abuse Allegation

Child-Welfare Agency Clears Principal of Abuse Allegation

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A year after a Catholic-school principal was fired for purportedly grabbing a student by the neck, the state agency that investigates child abuse has reversed a finding that supported the allegation, a newspaper reported.

The reversal by the Division of Child and Family Services was part of a confidential settlement with Roger Marcy, who was principal at St. John The Baptist Middle School in suburban Draper, a family member told The Salt Lake Tribune.

The division can't file criminal charges, but recommended to Monsignor Terrence Fitzgerald last November that Marcy be "removed from any position of authority over children" after the agency said it confirmed Marcy roughed up an eighth-grade student.

The Tribune cited a letter from the division that said it came to its initial conclusion based on statements by the 13-year-old boy's parents and other families.

The reversal restores Marcy's reputation and ends a trial challenging the agency's determination, said his daughter, Lisa McGarry, who is one of his attorneys.

An attorney for Utah's Catholic diocese say Marcy won't get his job back. The ex-principal is keeping his lawsuit against the diocese for wrongful termination and defamation.

Marcy contends the 13-year-old boy wasn't physically injured. His lawsuit against the diocese said a teacher observed only a "small red scratch" on the boy's neck.

Marcy "placed one hand on the back of the student's neck and collar" while guiding the eighth grader to an alcove for a dressing down, the suit says. It did not specify the boy's "inappropriate behavior."

Marcy was fired Nov. 16, 2002 for a "clear incident of abuse," diocese representatives told him, according to his suit.

Diocese attorney Matthew McNulty said the state's settlement has no bearing on the diocese's defense to Marcy's defamation suit. Nor will it lead to Marcy's reinstatement, despite outcries from parents and faculty at the time of his firing.

"Our actions were based on our policies, our investigation and Roger Marcy's letter of apology," Fitzgerald said through a spokeswoman.

Marcy, 63, remains out of work, his daughter said.

"This is something he has not recovered from," McGarry said. "He's still angry, but he seems much happier now."

Marcy faced no damage from the child-welfare agency other than to his reputation. The division can't prosecute, but investigates all reports of child abuse, substantiating about 7,000 of 19,000 a year, agency spokeswoman Carol Sisco told The Associated Press. The division can ask a judge to take a child into state custody.

Sisco refused to discuss the agency's investigation or the settlement, and said she couldn't explain whether or why the agency now finds the abuse allegation against Marcy to be unfounded.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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