Miami-Dade Schools Rehires Attorney Who Halted Northwestern Sex Abuse Probe
Northwestern's championship football squad was at the center of the case.
photo by Michael E. Miller
In September 2006, the crime that sparked one of the darkest sagas in Miami-Dade Public Schools history happened in a Northwestern High School bathroom. That's where the school's star 18-year-old quarterback had sex with a 14-year-old freshman girl. The crime soon began the focus of a mass coverup allegation as the quarterback was allowed to lead Northwestern to a state title just days later.
Even worse, a grand jury later found that school administrators had knowingly shut down a criminal investigation into the case. Some of the harshest criticism went toward Ronda Vangates, who was in charge of overseeing district investigations and who ordered the probe shut down.
Now, Vangates has a new job: Back in the Miami-Dade Public Schools, this time as an assistant attorney.
Both Vangates and a MDPS spokesman declined to comment on her hiring; a message left with the Miami-Dade Public Schools Attorney's Office hasn't been returned yet.
Vangates role in the Northwestern scandal was among the most contentious pieces for then-Superintendent Rudy Crews.
The bureaucrat and licensed attorney was among Crews top advisers when the sex abuse scandal rocked Northwestern High. Many failures were later uncovered in the aftermath of the crime, including allegations that the school's principal failed to tell police about the abuse.
Vangates was targeted by investigators for ordering police to stop investigating so the incident could face administrative review instead. She has always protested that when she sent the order, she didn't know there were potential criminal charges tied to the case.
But a grand jury that later delivered a harsh blow to the whole district -- and helped pave Crews' way out as superintendent -- found that defense difficult to believe.
"We find it unreasonable and unbelievable that it was not known this was a criminal investigation," the jury wrote in its 2007 report.
She never faced any charges over the case, though, and Crews later reappointed Vangates to her job. That move left some school board members reacting furiously. "The individual we are reappointing, while not directly involved, her paw prints are all over it," board member Ana Rivas Logan told the Herald at the time.
Vangates later ran for school board herself, losing to current member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall. More recently, she worked for Doral city government and was a candidate for city manager this past summer.