Another day, another teacher arrested for sexual misconduct with a student.
Today, it’s Deonte Carraway, a teachers’ aide at Judge Sylvania W. Woods Elementary School in the Prince George’s County, who sits in jail accused of at least 10 felony counts of child pornography. His victims are seventeen students ranging in age between 9 and 13 years old. According to local news station WUSA the number of victims could be as high as 55.
A story this ugly is a shock to parents and leaders in a community because most people trust their public schools to protect and educate their children. Yet, abuse of students is more common than education officials ever admit.
Carraway’s arrest mirrors many others.
Thomas Guzzi, 36, a teacher with the Vineland Public Schools in New Jersey was arrested recently for distribution of child pornography.
Farley Simon, a junior ROTC teacher in Irving, Texas, was arrested for pursuing an improper relationship with a 17 year old student.
Gary Anthony Burnette, a teacher in St. Port Luce, Florida, was jailed and bond set at $600,000 after an arrest for a sexual relationship with a 15 year old student.
According to an article in the Times Picayune last month Kimberly Naquin, 26, was arrested on 12 counts of carnal knowledge. The victim was one of her teenage students at Destrehan High School. Naquin’s father is the local school board president and her mother teaches in a district middle school.
Naquin is the third teacher from Destrehan High to be arrested for having sex with students.
These cases seem to stack up, one-by-one, without anyone ever connecting the dots or considering there might be a systemic problem that endangers children.
Over a decade ago a report commissioned by Congress found about 1 in 10 students have been target of educator sexual misconduct. It also found that the organizations representing teachers were not interested in a solution to the problem.
The report said:
Until recently, teacher unions in many states have actively opposed legislation that would require positive identification (e.g., fingerprinting) of teachers convicted of sexual abuse of students. In most states, teachers who are already employed are exempt from regulations such as fingerprint identification. There is no research that documents teacher union attempts to identify predators among their members
Michael Pons, spokesman for the National Education Association, complained that the methodology of the Congressional report combined “harassment” with “serious sexual misconduct.” Doing so, he said, “creates unjustified alarm.”
A representative from the American Association of School Administrators, Paul Houston, minimized the number of offenders, saying “You’re talking about a small number who are doing these inappropriate things out of millions of teachers and millions of employees.”
Parents might feel differently knowing that teachers often keep their jobs even when there are obvious red flags, and that school districts jeopardize the safety of students when they fail to properly document teachers who have faced charges.
According to Terry Abbott, a former Dept. of Education official under George Bush who now tracks educator sexual misconduct, “Fifteen times a week, a school employee is convicted or accused of inappropriate relationships with students.”
Recently USA Today did a comprehensive report called “Broken discipline tracking systems let teachers flee troubled pasts” that detailed how states and school districts fail to track problem teachers. Researchers looked at teacher discipline records from all 50 states and found cracks that disciplined teachers fell through:
States fail to report the names of thousands of disciplined teachers to a privately run database that is the nation’s only centralized system for tracking teacher discipline, many of which were acknowledged by several states’ education officials and the database’s non-profit operator. Without entries in the database, troubled and dangerous teachers can move to new states — and get back in classrooms — undetected.
The names of at least 9,000 educators disciplined by state officials are missing from a clearinghouse operated by the non-profit National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification. At least 1,400 of those teachers’ licenses had been permanently revoked, including at least 200 revocations prompted by allegations of sexual or physical abuse,
State systems to check backgrounds of teachers are rife with inconsistencies, leading to dozens of cases in which state education officials found out about a person’s criminal conviction only after a teacher was hired by a district and already in the classroom. Eleven states don’t comprehensively check teachers’ work and criminal backgrounds before issuing licenses, leaving that work to local districts — where critics say checks can be done poorly or skipped.
The good news is States are starting to review their systems for vetting teachers and for reporting misconduct.
For the sake of millions of school children entrusted to public schools, hopefully more will follow suit.
Here’s a short list of most recent cases of educator sexual misconduct: