Principal Cleared of Criminal Charges

Principal Cleared of Criminal Charges

Judge drops charges against Dogwood principal for failure to report suspected child abuse.

Dogwood Elementary principal Richalie "Ricki" Harvey did not get the opportunity to confront criminal charges against her inside the courtroom. She didn’t have to. The judge dismissed charges of failing to report suspected child abuse after hearing the prosecution's side.

But outside General District Court on Thursday, June 23, Harvey, 55 of McLean, addressed the misdemeanor charges she faced.

"I said from the very beginning, I would never put children in harm's way. I have spent 33 years caring for children and protecting them and the judge saw that," said Harvey, Dogwood Elementary School's principal since 1999 and the 2004 National Distinguished Principal of the Year. Harvey retired at the end of this school year.

"It has been very hard for my staff, it has been hard for the Dogwood Elementary School community, but in the long run, though, the truth came out. I know what I've done for kids," she said.

District Judge Ian Michael O'Flaherty, who dismissed one count against Harvey at the beginning of the hearing, dismissed the final count against her before her defense attorney even presented her side.

O'Flaherty ruled that there was not enough evidence to prove that Harvey suspected child abuse of Dogwood students by Kenneth Bayer, 88, who volunteered at the school. Bayer was arrested March 3 for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl who was not a Dogwood student nor ever attended Dogwood. Following his arrest, police received complaints from some Dogwood parents and teachers, who said Harvey knew of suspected abuse by Bayer at the school.

"Is there a hunch? Is there some smoke? Possibly," O'Flaherty said. "Is there a reasonable suspicion? I can't say that at this time."

Harvey's daughter, Kristen Knouft came from Philadelphia to give support to her mother at the hearing.

"I watched her dedicate her life to children," said Knouft, 35. "She raised those children like her own."