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Five school aides suspended after Down syndrome student Jenny Caballero drowns

7:01 PM, Nov 13, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - It is a difficult day for the mother of Jennifer Caballero.  Elizabeth Rosas is talking for the first time publicly about the tragic drowning death of her little girl, just 11-years-old when she died nearly a month ago at Rodgers Middle School.

"Very hard," said Elizabeth Rosas in Spanish.  She spoke through a translator and told 10 News that her heart is broken.

Jenny was a special needs student with Down syndrome.  She slipped out of her physical education class that day, and sadly after an exhaustive search, her body was found in a nearby retention pond several hours later.

PHOTO GALLERY: View pictures of the scene here

On Tuesday, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office closed its investigation into Jenny's death by releasing a report more than 700 pages in length.  It was determined that no criminal charges be filed.  However, the case is far from over.

The Hillsborough County School Board is now conducting its own investigation.  Five aides, who were watching Jenny that day along with other special needs students, have been suspended with pay.  They are not allowed back at school under the investigation is complete.  

"We are not looking for a scapegoat here," said Superintendent MaryEllen Elia. "Our goal is to protect the children and regain the trust of parents."

Elia has now formed a work group to examine the issues at hand, to look at procedures and ultimately make any recommendations on whether or not changes should be made, including terminations.  The report should be completed within ten days.  Elia says she hopes to have the results by the first week in December.  

"We will not jump to conclusions.  We will wait for the results," said Elia.  She is referring to the investigation by the Office of Professional Standards.

All those involved in the tragic case say Jenny slipped out quickly. One person remarked, "It happened with a minute." 

Many children saw Jenny that day running out the door and assumed she was going to the school track.  Others say they knew Jenny was an active child, so it didn't seem odd that she was running around that day.

Jenny was said to be "double-jointed," and those interviewed say they were not surprised that she jumped the fence surrounding the retention pond. 

"She was very active," said one teacher.  Also, in the report, it was noted that there were two cinder blocks piled on one another next to the fence where Jenny climbed over to gain access to the pond.

As far as what procedures they should follow, one teacher told investigators, "We get a crisis booklet." 

But, that teacher did not mention any specific training. That is what the task force will be looking into as far as any changes go.

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