Commentary: Abiding Child Abuse in Schools

Kids in the classroom
by Larry Sand


The stories of pedophile teachers not being held accountable for their abominable crimes are endless. In an in-depth piece, reporter Matt Drange investigates the issue and what he finds is positively revolting.

A case in North Carolina is typical. In Durham County, a student at Neal Middle School said her chorus teacher, Troy Pickens, had groped her, only disclosing a few years later that he’d raped her. James Key, the school’s principal, didn’t open an investigation until the child’s mother got involved, and even then, according to a subsequent civil suit that settled out of court, the principal “failed to report the groping allegation to law enforcement or child protective services, as required by state law.” Instead, Key allowed Pickens to resign, paving the way for him to remain in the field.

Several months later, Pickens applied for another teaching job in nearby Wake County. He landed the job partly due to a positive review from Key, who, according to the civil suit, never shared any information about his misconduct investigation.

Before long, Pickens sexually abused another student at his new school. “The methodical assaults in a school bathroom, detailed in court records, included digital penetration and forced fellatio. The student only came forward about the abuse two years later, after Pickens was arrested for raping the student back at Neal.”

But just as in Durham County, the Wake County district allowed Pickens to resign.

Similar to Drange’s horror stories, a 2023 report by the Defense of Freedom Institute’s Paul Zimmerman alleges a “systemic failure by federal, state, and local authorities to prevent sexual abuse of students in public schools.” The report, titled “Catching the Trash,” finds that federal, state, and local authorities have not done enough to ensure that students are protected from abuse during the school day.

According to data compiled by DFI, “between 2010 and 2019, the number of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging sexual violence against K–12 schools more than tripled.” The most recent available data, collected in 2017–18, shows 13,799 “incidents of sexual violence” and 685 instances of “rape or attempted rape” across about 95,000 schools—an increase of 43 percent and 74 percent, respectively, from the 2015–16 data.

Scandalously, DFI found that when public school employees are investigated for sexual abuse, many school districts are under no legal obligation to notify parents or even note the investigation in the employee’s personnel file. “This allows administrators to pawn off known abusers to different schools and districts in a phenomenon called ‘passing the trash'”

Additionally, Billie-Jo Grant, a researcher and consultant for SESAME, a group that targets educator sexual abuse, writes that fewer than 5 percent of school administrators nationwide report sexual misconduct to law enforcement.

Every state has its own litany of ugly child abuse stories.

In a well-publicized case, Los Angeles second-grade teacher Mark Berndt had a track record of perversity dating back to 1983 when he dropped his pants on a class trip to a museum, blaming it on “baggy shorts.” In 1992, several students claimed he was masturbating in class, and another student said he touched her inappropriately in the classroom. In both cases, school administrators ignored the allegations.

Berndt was finally busted in 2012 when it was learned that he had a habit of blindfolding his second graders and feeding them cookies smeared with his semen. Despite 30 years of perversity, the remedy employed by the school district was to bar lessons involving blindfolds and classroom-made butter. The statutes in California, which mandate an arcane 10-step process before a dismissal is finalized, are still in force.

Also in California, 51 Bay Area schools face sexual abuse lawsuits. In the cases reviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle, former students say school leaders ignored or mishandled complaints that educators were sexually abusing them. The students claim the district’s inaction allowed teachers to continue harming them and other students. “In at least two cases in which schools did investigate, officials found evidence that an alleged abuser had behaved inappropriately with students but allowed the employee to continue working with children, the suits claim.”

A French teacher in New York City is still in the classroom after being fired by the Department of Education. Dulaina Almonte, 33, lost her job at Harry S. Truman High School in The Bronx in 2020 after the Special Commissioner of Investigation substantiated claims she “sent a 17-year-old female student a staggering 28,075 late-night texts over 14 months—66 messages a day—and traded nearly 1,900 texts with a male 12th-grader.” It is also claimed that she and a former pupil were “involved in a sex act” in a classroom, according to a police report. She now teaches at a public charter school in New York.

Almonte is not exactly reticent about her situation, asserting, “It’s not a crime, but still got fired, which is honestly why the DOE can suck a big pr–k.” She defiantly added, “Still a teacher working elsewhere. Like, you really can’t f–king touch me.”

In Massachusetts, multiple school districts, including Woburn, Wachusett, Masconomet, Quabbin Regional, North Attleboro, and Attleboro, told an investigator that releasing records of school employees with sexual assault findings could “undoubtedly result in personal embarrassment to the perpetrators” as well as victims.

Shockingly, Massachusetts requires schools to collect discipline data on sexual assaults by students—but not by staff.

Collective bargaining agreements negotiated between teachers’ unions and school districts are a key contributor to the problem. They often allow for scrubbing of personnel files. State legislators—many of whom depend on teachers’ union support—are notoriously lax in this area.

It’s worth noting that abuse can happen in private schools, of course, but at least in a private setting, the rules are such that the school can take action without going through the bureaucratic maze that a unionized public school does.

What we really need is a national database for teachers and other education workers who have been convicted of committing sex crimes against children. The U.S. Department of Justice has already established a database for sex offenders. It is imperative that we have a similarly organized collection of information for educators, where school administrators are legally bound to report any and every instance of pedophilia. This would put an end to pedophiles going to another school or state and getting a new job with a clean record. Until this happens, our children will be at the mercy of agenda-driven union bosses, inept and union-bought state legislators, and corrupt and apathetic school administrators whose main interest is not to make any waves by simply passing the trash.

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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network—a nonpartisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.
Photo “Kids in Class” by RDNE Stock project.



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