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December 22, 2002

Group wants Gov. Locke to fire Deaf School chief

From: Seattle Times, WA - 22 Dec 2002

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Faced with dozens of reports of sexual abuse at the Washington School for the Deaf, an advocacy group is demanding that Gov. Gary Locke fire the superintendent.

The superintendent, Len Aron, has repeatedly minimized the problem of sexual abuse at the school, said Marilyn Smith, executive director of Seattle-based Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services, which wants Aron ousted.

A state-appointed safety panel's final report to Locke criticized school officials for requiring a 14-year-old girl to meet with an older teenage boy who she claims sexually assaulted her two times at the state-run Vancouver school.

The girl attempted suicide Sept. 16, just hours after the meeting in Aron's office. That prompted the panel to conclude in its Nov. 6 report that staff members "do not seem to understand the dynamics of victimization."

Locke, who appointed Aron in 1998, has defended the superintendent in the face of dozens of reports of rapes, molestation and sexual harassment.

Aron expressed surprise at the safety panel's criticisms and said he doesn't believe he should resign.

School enrollment has dropped from 120 in 2001 to 102 students this year.

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