In 2017, there have been arrests for possession of heroin, drug paraphernalia, driving while impaired, careless and reckless driving, possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance, assault on a person under 12 years of age, assault on a handicapped person, soliciting a child by a computer, human trafficking and soliciting a child for sex acts online.
There were also arrests and charges filed for raping a 15-year-old juvenile, misdemeanor assault on a handicapped person, contributing to a juvenile being neglected, sexual activity with a minor, as well as multiple charges of indecent liberties with a child – many felony level.
The common denominator? Those charged were all educators in the state of North Carolina.
A few examples include Ahmad Garrison, 27, of Pender county. Garrison was charged with soliciting a child by computer and with human trafficking of a child victim. The parents of a 14-year-old girl discovered Instagram exchanges between their daughter and Garrison. It is alleged that Garrison had offered to take the girl to Charlotte to engage in sex acts for money. Garrison was the head track coach at Topsail High.
Rodney Scott, is a former assistant basketball coach at Pine Forest High School in Fayetteville. He was originally charged in 2016 with two counts of statutory rape of a boy under the age of 15.
Since then, 105 new charges have been added that include 21 counts of Statutory Sexual Offense Against a Person Who is 13, 14, or 15 Years Old by a Defendant Who is at Least Six Years Older Than the Victim and 21 counts each for Sexual Activity by a Substitute Parent, Child Abuse – Sexual Act, Crime Against Nature and Indecent Liberties with a Child.
In Chatham county, a teacher who allegedly passed a background check was recently charged with 33 sex crimes. Robert Woodard, 28, was a band teacher at Chatham Central High School. Woodard was charged with 8 felony counts of indecent liberties with a student, 7 felony counts of first-degree sexual offense of a child 15 years of age or younger and 18 felony counts of felony sex act with a student.
Woodard resigned and the school system is asking state officials to revoke his license. To date, Woodard’s name has not appeared on the revocation list, however it can take a good deal of time before it will. The process is lengthy and simply being arrested and charged with a crime doesn’t mean there will be official action, often the department has to await the outcome of a trial.
We’ve been able to track these arrests using a variety of news alert services, including Google. Currently we have a list of 16 arrest state-wide, which include the 3 examples previously mentioned.
While Woodard has not appeared on the revocation list yet, one teacher we’ve been tracking, who was the subject of a WRAL investigation, has appeared on the list.
Latoya Snead was accused of inappropriate contact with one of her middle school male students. When caught, she resigned from the school and then went to work at another school.
WRAL’s report raised the question of how Snead was able to resign from one school after the accusations and then a short while later be employed at a different school. In one case we are tracking, a teacher had worked at 8 different schools.
WRAL’s Monica Laliberte brought the case to former State Superintendent June Atkinson in 2016:
Snead is not among the arrests we were tracking because she was never charged with anything. According to the revocation listing, Snead has only received a reprimand and apparently still has her license.
In the WRAL video, Atkinson was visibly upset, yet she shelved the idea of criminal background checks over six years ago. The issue wasn’t raised again until a USA Today report gave North Carolina an “F” when it came to screening teachers.
Lengthy Investigation Process
After our last story about teacher crime and the list of license revocations, Vanessa Jeter, the Director of Communications for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI), reached out to us to clarify the process.
Jeter said that DPI does its best to track media reports of teacher arrests and that the, “revocation or suspension of a teacher’s license cannot be predicated solely upon a media report of an arrest, or an arrest in general. This notion is of course based on the fundamental concept that every person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.”
“Unless the individual pleads guilty right away, an investigation can be lengthy and, assuming the investigation warrants further charges and a trial, the entire criminal process can take months, ” wrote Jeter.
Jeter explained that reports on arrests and information from the District Attorney involved are often not accessible until the trial has completed, which often hinders DPI or the State Board of Education from taking any action in the meantime.
This doesn’t mean action won’t happen, wrote Jeter:
“That being said, it is important to note that, a teacher who gets arrested for a serious crime is almost always, if not always, discharged from employment as a teacher and is, in light of the media exposure, not likely to be rehired in another school setting unless and until trial determines the teacher to be guilty. Rest assured that, in the event a teacher is convicted of a crime that supports automatic revocation, mandatory revocation pursuant to G.S. 115C -296(d)(2), the Department and the State Board exercise due diligence in ensuring that mandatory, automatic revocation occurs consistent with law.”
Jeter also wrote, “Please keep in mind that the presence of a criminal action does not preclude the Department from taking action against a license. The Department has the authority, and uses it often, to revoke a teacher’s license even when faced with a not guilty verdict from a criminal court.” View Jeter’s full letter.
Protecting Our Students
Currently, criminal background checks are not a state-wide requirement in North Carolina.
In an April 2016 report given by State Board of Education Legal Counsel, Katie Cornetto, indicated that the board would like the legislature to consider granting the Board the authority to conduct fingerprint criminal background checks. An agreement would be formed between the State Board of Education and the State Board of Investigations as to the, ” purposes for which the background check results will be used.”
A bill proposed this session at the General Assembly would make that happen.
House Bill 117, Protect Students in Schools, was filed in February of this year and passed the first reading in the House. The bill has since languished in the Committee on Education – K-12.
HB 117 would require criminal background checks for all teacher license applications, as well as for the members of boards of directors of non-profits seeking approval for charter schools. The background checks would apply to initial applications for licenses, renewal applications, and applications for the reinstatement of a license.