“Thomas Valva: Never Again” Resolution

SWRTA is a co-signer of the following resolution, which was written to help protect children from abuse and neglect. Our thanks to EMTA President Dan McGuire and the teachers in his unit for drafting this important document.

Whereas, the most recent study on child maltreatment from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services showed 678,000 victims of abuse in 2018 and 1,770 child deaths from abuse and neglect in 2018– a rate of nearly five child deaths from abuse every day; and

Whereas, NYSUT members are mandated child abuse reporters and have embraced this responsibility without hesitation in a continual effort to protect children from abuse and neglect; and

Whereas, educators in the East Moriches Union Free School District faithfully fulfilled their roles as mandated reporters in a sustained campaign to protect Thomas Valva, an 8-year-old autistic child, from abuse at the hands of his father, Michael Valva, and his father’s fiancee, Angelina Pollina; and

Whereas, media reports record “some 20 calls from the child’s teachers” to Child Protective Services documenting evidence of apparent physical abuse, malnourishment and neglect and that none of these calls were successful in convincing Child Protective Services (CPS) to remove Thomas Valva from his father’s custody; and

Whereas, Thomas Valva was pronounced dead on January 17, 2020 at Long Island Community Hospital, with investigators noting that his body temperature when he arrived at the hospital was just 76 degrees, after which Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart announced in a news conference that, “Thomas Valva was subjected to freezing temperatures in the home’s unheated garage overnight when the outside temperature was 19 degrees.”; and

Whereas, Michael Valva and Angelina Pollina have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Thomas Valva; and

Whereas, Thomas Valva’s death has renewed scrutiny into the capacity, competency and willingness of courts and CPS to properly shield children from abuse, with critics charging such institutions with systemic and repeated failures; and

Whereas, the president of the Suffolk Association of Municipal Employees points to legal impediments that preclude workers from taking proper action and funding restrictions that limit CPS to fewer than 200 caseworkers who are charged with monitoring more than 1000 children and fielding more than 9000 reports annually in Suffolk County; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that NYSUT will advocate for essential and significant increases in funding and support for child welfare agencies; and be it further

RESOLVED, that NYSUT will strongly consider convening a task force comprised of mandated reporters and child welfare institutions, including such agencies as Child Protective Services and our sisters & brothers in the Association of Municipal Employees, to expeditiously recommend reforms that will enhance, expand and maximize child protection while minimizing bureaucratic obstruction; and be it further

RESOLVED that such a task force will consider, but not be limited to, such reforms as increased transparency, training, partnership and communication among schools and child welfare agencies; proper oversight and accountability for child welfare agencies and family courts; development of an appeals process for cases found unsubstantiated or unfounded; implementation of credible monitoring procedures for all reported cases of child endangerment; amendments to reporting procedures to allow duplicate reporting and legislative advocacy to create better legal protections for children vulnerable to abuse and neglect.