Saturday, December 8, 2012

CPS Notified Before Boy’s Beating Death


Posted: Dec 07, 2012 5:08 PM Updated: Dec 07, 2012 5:08 PM

By Lauren Rozyla, Reporter - email

By Matt Bell, Photojournalist - email

Roderick "RJ" Arrington Jr. before boarding a plane to Las Vegas to live with his mother and stepfather.

Roderick "RJ" Arrington Jr. before boarding a plane to Las Vegas to live with his mother and stepfather.

LAS VEGAS -- An unidentified person from Roundy Elementary School reported suspected abuse of 7-year-old Roderick "RJ" Arrington Jr. to child protective services the same day as police said he was beaten to death at home.

According to the Clark County School District, Metro Police informed the school district that they followed proper protocol in getting Child Protective Services involved with the case.

The school district would not confirm who might have called CPS, but child advocates said teachers and educators are often the ones to pick up the phone.

According to arrest reports, RJ's mother and stepfather, Dina and Markiece Palmer, admitted to beating the boy with a belt Tuesday, Nov. 27.

The next day, the school district contacted CPS after an alert person recognized something was wrong with RJ.

RJ was at school when the abuse was reported, but CPS has not revealed whether anyone went to the school to check on him.

It was that night that Markiece Palmer told investigators he grabbed the boy by his arms and shook him hard.

His mother and stepfather found him unresponsive the next morning.

"You can't even imagine how tough this is," RJ's grandmother, Latanza Harris, said. "This is a nightmare right now."

Child advocates said school workers are often the ones to pick up the phone with suspected signs of abuse.

Denise Tanata-Ashby of the Children's Advocacy Alliance said educators are legally bound to report suspected abuse.

"Educators are the ones who see the kids the most," she said.

She said school workers look for key signs like bruising and broken bones, but also behavioral changes like a drop in grades and no longer wanting to play with friends.

"These teachers who are with them on a daily basis are the ones who are seeing potential changes," Tanata-Ashby said.

Tara Phebus analyzes child abuse trends in Clark County from year to year. She said educators also watch to see how the kids interact with caregivers.

"Do they seem afraid of that person? The parent or other caregiver?" said Phebus, of the Nevada Institute for Children's Research and Policy. "Do they express negative opinions of the child?"

Phebus said it's important to always air on the side of caution when looking into cases of potential abuse.

According to Child Protective Services, it was in the process of investigating the claim when it was told RJ was admitted to the hospital.

The boy's body is now in Illinois where he will be buried Saturday.

Doctors said RJ was covered in bruises and had open wounds at the hospital, and police said they recovered belts, cords and a spatula with blood on them from his home.

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