Teacher Arrests in NC: A Quiet Epidemic

Over the course of the last six months, American Lens has chronicled teacher arrests and crimes in the state of North Carolina.

In January, our first report detailed the disparities between teacher arrests in the media versus the state maintained list of teacher license revocations and disciplinary actions.

READ: Teacher Revocation List Lags Behind Media Reporting of Teacher Crimes

At that time, an analysis showed that of the teacher arrests reported by the media during 2016 in North Carolina, only 8 of 29 cases appear in the teacher revocation listing.

During that same year, 22 teachers were charged with crimes of a sexual nature involving students.

An overall look at revocations going back 10 years and teacher arrests for the last three shows the crimes are overwhelmingly sexual in nature.

Unreported and Under the Radar

One of the criteria listed in license revocation and disciplinary proceedings is the, “failure of school administrator to report revocable conduct.”

It was noted back in our January report, that it was unclear whether these individuals had been reported by the responsible district administrators to the Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI) or the State Board of Education.

Since then, it’s become clear that some teachers are being allowed to resign in one North Carolina county only to be hired weeks or a months later in another one.

Two other news outlets have come across cases confirming that this practice of shuffling teachers back and forth was going on.

In one case documented by WRAL, teacher Latoya Snead resigned and simply moved on to another school.

November 15, 2016 ”“ WRAL, Part I, Part II
WRAL exposed a teacher named Latoya Snead, age 35, who had engaged in inappropriate texting with an 8th grade student.
Snead had worked in Johnston County Schools at McGee’s Crossroads Middle School at the time of the inappropriate texting.
Ms. Snead was employed in Sampson county at Union Middle School when WRAL caught up with her.

Latoya Snead eventually showed up on the revocation listing, but was given only a reprimand. She has kept her license.

A similar case involving a teacher named Troy Pickens was documented by ABC 11. Pickens has yet to show up on the teacher license revocation listing.

Background Check Failures and Teacher Arrests

Around six years ago, the North Carolina legislature asked NC DPI, under the direction of former Superintendent June Atkinson, to come up with a background check procedure proposal.

Atkinson shoved the project in a drawer for over four years.  The legislature never followed up either.

This brings us to 2015, when USA Today published a report rating the states on their teaching hiring practices. North Carolina received an “F.”

Fast forward to 2017.  One individual American Lens has been tracking is Robert Woodard, age 28. He was a band teacher at Chatham Central High School and he was arrested earlier this year.

Woodard, Robert - Sex Offender Registry Mugshot - Teacher Arrests
Robert Woodard

Woodard’s charges included 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.

There was a March 20th court date for Woodard, who at the time was still in jail and had not bonded out.  Last week that status changed – Woodard bonded out on June 6th.

Court records of the hearing are not available yet.

Here’s the rub. Woodard allegedly passed a background check to teach in Chatham County schools.

Arguably, had Dr. Atkinson followed through on the background check proposal tasked to her, Woodard might not have been able to victimize students in Chatham county.

Teacher Arrests: A Quiet Epidemic

Since our initial January report, American Lens has documented nearly weekly teacher arrests in North Carolina between April and the beginning of May.

Had these individuals been wearing a minister’s collar, perhaps the media would be more interested beyond their surface reporting.

As it stands, what we’ve documented is nothing short of a quiet epidemic.

What Is Being Done?

Meanwhile, at the General Assembly, the bill which addresses background checks for educators has yet to make it out of the finance committee.

North Carolina House Bill 117, Protect Students in Schools, was filed in February of this year.

The most recent Preferred Committee Substitution (PCS) for the bill includes a provision that might reduce the under-reporting of teachers who resign voluntarily due to misconduct or an arrest.

“If a teacher’s criminal history is relevant to the teacher’s resignation, regardless of whether the teacher has given at least 30 days’ notice, the board shall report to the State Board of Education the reason for an employee’s resignation.”

What the bill does not stipulate is action by the State Board of Education or DPI with such resignation information.

Without a master list of names, a strict reporting process and a hiring process requiring districts to check a master list for issues, the districts will have the ability to keep shuffling bad teachers from school to school.

The bill’s authors might also wish to consider requiring the State Board of Education to maintain both the licensing revocations list and a list of pending cases. Parents and the public deserve to be aware of what is going on in their child’s school.

While HB 117 includes state, national, sex offender and credit related background checks,   the bill does not include checking for Child Protective Service (CPS) orders.

In a coming installment, American Lens will offer a case example of how one teacher has been continuing to teach due to a CPS order obscuring their criminal activity.

Editorial Note: This article has been updated to retract sex offender registry information regarding Robert Woodard.

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