January 7, 1987
Dear Mrs. Duran:
In response to your request for information regarding my decision not to prosecute Mrs. Stefani, I am happy to provide you with edited portions from the memorandum I sent to the Westwood Police Department.
As a result of my review of the numerous allegations of misconduct by Mrs. Stefani, I decided not to file any criminal charges. However, due to the nature, number, duration and severity of the allegations, I did share some of my concerns with the investigating officer.
His report relates interviews of 21 children who were subject to instances of emotional abuse over a period of several years. While most of these instances could be described as relatively minor, the lasting effect on young children can never be determined. At least two of the children were so severely affected that they required medical treatment for physical disorders apparently induced by emotional turmoil in the classroom. Although I am unable to charge a crime, Mrs. Stefani's behavior is technically a law violation. If medical experts could have provided opinion testimony to more directly link the disorders with her degrading and humiliating treatment of the children, probable cause would have existed for prosecution.
While I realize that the Westwood Police Department is in no position to influence the school district or the board, I am concerned that the failure by those bodies to take some action at the earliest possible time will most certainly lead to the most serious consequences. I am informed that one of Mrs. Stefani's students, who was frequently humiliated in her class, may recently have attempted suicide. Despite the conclusion that his act was "accidental," I am also informed that Mrs. Stefani has recently stated that she believes the reason was the child's problems with reading.
Like Det. Thompson, I have tried to put together a provable case. I almost feel that unless the criminal justice system can do something, nothing will be done. I hope that is not true. Of particular concern and question is the lack of action by the district in spite of numerous negative evaluations by Mrs. Stefani's supervisor. Specifically, in June 1984, Mr. McNeill, her principal, filed a written reprimand as a result of physical abuse (now outside the statute of limitations). Then in November of 1985, Mr. McNeill recommended her dismissal. Again in 1986, twice in April and once in May, he filed lengthy notations of deficiencies.
Mrs. Stefani should be of concern to all who are responsible for the education of children. She obviously does not enjoy teaching nor does she like children. It is incumbent on the school district and the board to take all necessary steps to protect children from the emotional abuse Mrs. Stefani has and, I suspect, continues to inflict on her students.
This office will gladly review any supplements or further investigation the Police Department may present.
I hope this is of some assistance to you in understanding the decision-making process of the District Attorney's Office.
Thank you for your patience and your pursuit of justice.
Very truly yours,
Chief Deputy District Attorney