OCSO report: Former Okaloosa County deputy Dwayne Vasiloff “blatantly” failed to assist the Florida Department of Children and Families in child abuse investigations at Kenwood.
Okaloosa’s school district isn't the only county agency caught up in the investigation of reported child abuse at Kenwood Elementary School.
The actions of former Okaloosa County deputy Dwayne Vasiloff came under scrutiny this week and the Sheriff’s Office late Wednesday afternoon confirmed he’d been investigated and disciplined for “blatantly” failing to assist the Florida Department of Children and Families in numerous child abuse investigations as the School Resource Officer at Kenwood.
The issue came to light, a Sheriff’s Office news release said, after an OCSO investigator initiated a criminal investigation in May at Kenwood in response to allegations of child abuse against pre-K special education teacher Marlynn Stillions.
DCF had opened an investigation of its own May 18, according to an agency spokeswoman.
“She (the Sheriff’s Office investigator) talked with numerous Child Protection investigators from the Department of Children and Families. Those discussions revealed a lack of confidence in the school’s SRO. They outlined a repeated reluctance to assist and participate in multiple ongoing child abuse investigations undertaken by DCF,” the news release said. “They indicated they would have to conduct these investigations alone.”
The concerns expressed about Vasiloff resulted in the Sheriff’s Office initiating an internal investigation on May 26, the news release said. It found “a failure by former SRO Dwayne Vasiloff to adequately perform his duties in assisting the Department of Children and Families (DCF) with other unrelated child abuse investigations that arose at Kenwood.”
State Attorney Bill Eddins said Wednesday that Vasiloff is not considered a suspect in his office’s ongoing investigation into the Stillions case. To date, that investigation has resulted in the arrest of Stillions, on four counts of felony child abuse without great bodily harm, and two other school officials — district investigator Arden Farley and former Kenwood principal Angelyn Vaughan — on multiple felony counts for failure to report suspected child abuse.
Vasiloff’s status could change, Eddins said, “if additional facts come to light regarding his actions, specifically regarding whether he reported child abuse.”
'Voluntarily retired from agency'
Vasiloff was appointed as Kenwood’s school resource officer in 2013 and served there until being disciplined following the OCSO internal investigation. According to Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Michele Nicholson, he “voluntarily retired from the agency” on July 20.
He would have been on campus during the months of May and June in 2016 when Farley was interviewing teachers, teacher’s aides and cafeteria workers to determine whether Stillions was having improper interactions/procedures with the special needs children in her care.
Vasiloff’s name, however, does not appear among those interviewed by Farley.
The deputy also would have been working as Kenwood’s SRO on May 18 this year when DCF began an investigation into allegations of possible child abuse by Stillions. His retirement came three days after the conclusion of that investigation two months later.
Vasiloff also was the SRO at Kenwood when Eddie Perillo took a year-old report Farley filed on Stillions with school district Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Stacie Smith in June 2016 to the Sheriff’s Office in May.
Perillo has identified his son, Noah, a now 6-year-old non-verbal autistic boy, as a primary victim of abuse in the Stillions case. His persistence in seeing the matter investigated has helped bring the entire case to light.
Concerns well before Stillions case
A Northwest Florida Daily News request to review Vasiloff’s personnel file was denied Sept. 29 “due to the active criminal investigation being conducted by the State Attorney’s Office.” Eddins said Wednesday morning he had reviewed the personnel file and cleared it for public scrutiny.
The Sheriff’s Office issued its news release and provided documents from the internal investigation later in the afternoon.
DCF had grown weary of Vasiloff’s failure to help them pursue child abuse investigations well before case workers arrived on campus to inquire about Stillions, the internal investigation showed.
One allegation against the deputy stemmed from late in 2016 when an investigator, Shelley Jacobs, found evidence of injuries to a Kenwood student possibly stemming from child abuse and Vasiloff “appeared not to want to participate in or author a report.”
“It’s late in the afternoon … if (I) have to take a report, it’ll be close to 5 (o’clock),” Jacobs quoted Vasiloff as saying.
Vasiloff avoided other offers to participate in child abuse investigations, according to the internal investigation, again quoting Jacobs.
During one investigation, Vasiloff, after repeatedly asking DCF investigators “do you need me?”, looked over a DCF intake report and called a suspected child victim “a little liar.”
The report says Jacobs visited Kenwood at least seven times and Vasiloff only authored one report.
Efforts to reach Vasiloff on Wednesday were not successful.
The internal investigation “sustained allegations of unsatisfactory performance and not obeying rules,” the Sheriff’s Office news release said. Vasiloff denied any wrongdoing, it said, “and stated his behavior was misinterpreted.”
"He received a one-year probation, two days suspension without pay, and reassignment to patrol division with direct supervision," the news release said. Vasiloff "voluntarily retired" well before completing his probation.
Previous focus on school district
Thus far, the attention brought by the Stillions case has been focused strictly on the Okaloosa County School District and its failings, particularly in dismissing Farley’s investigative findings that confirmed Stillions had inappropriate interactions with students.
The report filed by Farley on June 17, 2016 never would have made it out of assistant superintendent Smith’s office had Perillo not fought to get it released, threatening legal action before obtaining the report through a public records request.
School Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson has made contradictory statements about when she saw the report. Four of five School Board members have said they never saw the report.
Both Perillo and his ex-wife, Harvest, have said for the year that the Farley investigation lay tucked away in the school district’s Human Resources office, they were never told an investigation had been initiated, completed or dismissed.