sTeacher Crimes In NC
This page chronicles the past arrests of teachers in the North Carolina K-12 Public School System.
Articles posted here are archived from my prior position at American Lens News.
The four-part series, A Quiet Epidemic is located near the bottom third of this page.
Related: Who Is Teaching Your Child?
South Caldwell High Teacher Faces Obscene Materials Charge
Caldwell County Schools Have Terminated His Employment
By A.P. Dillon – 12/15/2017
A South Caldwell High School teacher is facing an obscene materials charge.
Scott Walter Curtis, 44, of 20th Avenue N.W. in Hickory, North Carolina was arrested on December 7th.
The Caldwell County Sheriff’s department says the South Caldwell High teacher was arrested on a felony charge of disseminating obscenity.
Caldwell County school officials terminated Curtis’ employment just prior to his arrest. Curtis was the choral director at the school.
Curtis was being held at the Caldwell County Detention Center. A $10,000 secured bond was issued and he was later released.
Scott Curtis will appear in District Court in Lenoir on December 11.
Last week, another Caldwell teacher was arrested.
A William Lenoir Middle School teacher has been charged with taking indecent liberties with a child. William Lenoir Middle is located in Caldwell County in North Carolina.
The Lenoir police department announced that 29-year-old Justin Biggs has been charged with three felony counts of indecent liberties with a child. Biggs was a math teacher and softball coach at the school. School officials confirmed Biggs has resigned.
The investigation into Biggs was prompted by a report that there had been a “physical assault by a teacher” on November 9th of this year. Court documents state that Biggs is accused of “committing a lewd act on a child.”
Biggs was the 52nd teacher arrest being tracked by American Lens since January of this year. A Swansboro High teacher is the 53rd and Scott Curtis is the 54th.
Swansboro High Teacher Facing 9 Felony Counts Involving Student
Daughtery was having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student.
By A.P. Dillon – 12/14/2017
A Swansboro High School teacher is facing nine felony charges involving a student.
Zachary Todd Daugherty, 28, had been charged with six counts of committing a sex act with a student and three counts of taking indecent liberties with a student.
Daughtery was taken to the Onslow County Detention Center and a $45,000 bond has been issued.
According to the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office, the arrest happened on Tuesday. The arrest and charges were prompted by reports received by law enforcement that Daugherty was engaged a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student.
Daughtery is business and vocational teacher at Swansboro High School.
Onslow County Schools officials said in a press release that they were notified of the accusations on December 7.
The school district also said that Daughtery has been until the investigation has concluded. It is unclear if the Swansboro High teacher was suspended with or without pay. As of the last legislative session, Superintendents have more flexibility when suspending employees. The option to suspend without pay now has a process in place via Senate Bill 599.
Suzie Ulbrich, the Public Information Officer for Onslow County Schools issued the following statement:
Onslow County Schools was informed Dec. 12, that an employee has been arrested and accused of inappropriate conduct with a student. This alleged misbehavior is representative of a very poor decision by a person entrusted with our students. The safety and well-being of our students and members of our school community is our number one priority. The district has adopted policies and administrative guidelines designed, in large part, to ensure student safety. We work hard to create caring and inclusive school communities where our students and staff feel safe and supported. Once the district was notified of allegations against the staff member Dec. 7, Onslow County Schools took appropriate action. The employee was suspended, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Officials from the Onslow County School district said that they had performed background checks and other screening practices on Daughtery, but that nothing came up indicating an issue with him.
Anyone with information about this incident may contact Onslow County Sheriff’s Office at 910-455-3113 or email Detective K. Johnston at email@example.com.
Citizens can also call Crime Stoppers with information at 910-938-3273 and reference case 2017-021988.
The Swansboro High teacher is the 53rd teacher arrest in North Carolina tracked by American Lens in our ongoing Quiet Epidemic series since the start of 2017.
Raleigh Montessori Teacher Has More Charges Added
A total of 33 felony charges now are pending against the former Raleigh Montessori teacher.
By A.P. Dillon – 12/08/2017
A former Raleigh Montessori school teacher has had more charges added to the 20 felony sex charges already pending against him.
American Lens originally reported that Nicholas Conlon Smith, 36, was arrested on November 7th and charged with 16 felony counts of statutory rape with a 14-year-old girl and 4 counts of felony sex offense with a student. Those charges stemmed from alleged incidents that occurred between August 2011 and June 2012.
In November, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Christy Joyce told the court that a second victim has been identified and more charges were likely to come.
New charges did emerge and the former Raleigh Montessori teacher now faces additional child exploitation charges after sexually explicit images of female students were found on his home computer.
Smith has been charged with 13 counts of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. The arrest warrant served on Smith states that he is accused ‘encouraging and coercing’ a young girl to take nude pictures of herself and then send the images to him.
The additional charges bring the total to 33 sexually related felony counts against Smith.
According to law enforcement, the images were taken in 2011 and in 2012. The female students in question were between the ages of 14 and 15 at the time and were partially nude in the images.
“It is devastating to learn that one of our teachers has been charged with such serious crimes. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. The Montessori School of Raleigh remains committed to protecting and supporting our students during this difficult time,” wrote The Montessori School of Raleigh in a statement.
The bond set for Smith was raised from $1 million to $2 million by the presiding judge in Raleigh in November.
Nicholas Smith is the 49th teacher arrest being tracked by American Lens since January.
William Lenoir Middle Teacher Charged With Indecent Liberties
Caldwell County Teacher Charged with 3 Felony Counts
By A.P. Dillon – 12/07/2017
A William Lenoir Middle School teacher has been charged with taking indecent liberties with a child. William Lenoir Middle is located in Caldwell County in North Carolina.
The Lenoir police department announced that 29-year-old Justin Biggs has been charged with three felony counts of indecent liberties with a child. Biggs was a math teacher and softball coach at the school. School officials confirmed Biggs has resigned.
The investigation into Biggs was prompted by a report that there had been a “physical assault by a teacher” on November 9th of this year. Court documents state that Biggs is accused of “committing a lewd act on a child.”
According to Lenoir Police, the incidents happened on school property and involved William Lenoir Middle School students.
William Lenoir Middle Wasn’t First Set of Claims
According to WBB Charlotte, this is not the first time Biggs has been accused of illegal activity regarding children. WBB Charlotte reports that in September of 2015, seven students accused Biggs of ‘inappropriate contact’ with them.
At the time, Biggs was teaching at Granite Falls Middle School, which is also located in Caldwell County. An investigation was launched, but no charges were brought by the District Attorney at that time.
After those claims were made school officials moved Biggs from Granite Falls to another school, presumably William Lenoir Middle School. Allegedly there were “conditions” placed on this move but school officials refused to say what those conditions were, citing disclosure policies on personnel information.
The WBB Charlotte report includes a statement from Caldwell County Public Schools on the 2015 claims:
“After an extensive school/law enforcement investigation in 2015, reports of inappropriate behavior were unsubstantiated or validated as sexual or criminal in nature. Behavior was deemed to be immature and childish, but not of a criminal nature. There was never any advisement from law enforcement that he should be terminated or was a danger to students. An administrative decision was made to reassign to a different school, with a vacancy in the teacher’s certification area with specific conditions of employment. We continue to work closely with law enforcement officials.”
Biggs is being held under a $150,000 secure bond at the Caldwell County Detention Center. His next court date will be held in 2018 on January 8th.
Police are asking that anyone who might have information pertaining to this case should contact Crime Stoppers at 828-758-8300 or Lenoir Police Department at 828-757-2100.
American Lens has been reporting on the license revocation process in the state since January. Biggs is the 52nd teacher arrest tracked by American Lens since the start of 2017.
Many teachers we’ve investigated and written about have been allowed to resign once charges have been issued against them.
According to North Carolina Senate Bill 599, which has been signed into law, the district has options with how to deal with Biggs’ resignation:
SECTION 4.(d) G.S. 115C‑325(o)(2) reads as rewritten:
“(2) A teacher, career or probationary, who is not recommended for dismissal should not resign without the consent of the superintendent unless he or she has given at least 30 days’ notice. If a teacher who is not recommended for dismissal does resign without giving at least 30 days’ notice, the board may request that the State Board of Education revoke the teacher’s license for the remainder of that school year. A copy of the request shall be placed in the teacher’s personnel file. 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.”
Senate Bill 599 also grants more flexibility to superintendents if an employee has not resigned but a suspension is imminent. The superintendents now have the option to suspend that person without pay as long as the superintendent has met with the employee and give him/her “written notice of the charges against him, an explanation of the basis for the charges, and an opportunity to respond.”
Senate Bill 599 stipulates that if the teacher in question is “incarcerated or is in the custody of a local, State, private, or federal correctional facility,” then the superintendent is not required to perform such a meeting before suspending that teacher without pay. Instead, the superintendent can offer written notice of the charges and allow an opportunity for the teacher to respond in writing.
Once the teacher is notified of the suspension, the superintendent then has 5 days to either dismiss, demote, or elect for disciplinary suspension without pay.
SC Teacher with Suspended License was Teaching in NC
Teacher License Suspended in SC and NC
By A.P. Dillon – 11/29/2017
A South Carolina teacher who had their license suspended was discovered to be actively teaching in North Carolina during an investigation by WSOCTV.
James Matthew Vlaardingbroek, age 34 of Fort Mill, South Carolina had his teaching license suspended by the South Carolina Board of Education. He cannot have his license in SC reinstated for at least three years.
According to the WSOCTV report, Vlaardingbroek was teaching at Albemarle Road elementary school in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district. Before his suspension, he was a teacher are Indian Land Elementary school in South Carolina.
According to the SC State Board of Education documentation, Vlaardingbroek was suspended due to “continued inappropriate physical contact with students.” This behavior had been documented starting in 2015 and Vlaardingbroek had received multiple warnings.
In September of 2016, Vlaardingbroek was placed on administrative leave from Indian Land elementary after allegations were made he had inappropriate contact with a female student. The incident allegedly involved Vlaardingbroek “flipping up” the skirt of a female student.
In addition, Vlaardingbroek admitted to photographing students without their knowledge, including students not in his own class.
Vlaardingbroek resigned shortly after the September incident and his teaching license was suspended in South Carolina on June 13, 2017. The North Carolina State Board of Education suspending Vlaardingbroek’s license as of November.
SC Teacher Taught in Durham
Vlaardingbroek apparently also lived in Durham, North Carolina at one point and prior to that, lived in Florida. A LinkedIn profile indicates he was once a teacher at the University of Florida.
A Facebook profile for Vlaardingbroek shows that he was at one point a 4th grade teacher at “Easley Elementary” which is located in Durham. School officials in the Durham Public School system confirmed that James Matthew Vlaardingbroek was employed with the district at Easley Elementary School starting in August 2008 and ending in July 2014. According to school officials, he resigned in July 2014 due to “family relocation.”
The WSOCTV report mentions that their anchor, Liz Foster, asked Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CMS) officials about whether potential employees are were required to disclose any previous investigations involving themselves at other school districts during the hiring process. A CMS spokesperson told WSOCTV, “We are checking on this.”
According to the NC State Board of Education, the answer to that question is yes. There are two self-reporting questions asked when a teacher applies for licensure in North Carolina:
1. Have you ever been convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic offense?
2. Have you ever had a license suspended or revoked in another state?
Court records show Vlaardingbroek has some minor speeding ticket and ticket for expired tags that date back to 2010.
Jackson County Schools Employee Charged In Child Porn Sting
Custodian and Substitute Bus Drive Busted in Porn Sting
By A.P. Dillon – 11/21/2017
A Jackson County Schools employee has been charged in an undercover child porn sting.
William Pruitt, age 48, was arrested and charged under the Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007 with the sexual exploitation of a minor.
The Jackson County Schools employee was both a substitute bus driver and a custodian at Smokey Mountain Elementary school. Pruitt was also employed in the Macon County School district in Georgia as a bus driver.
According to the Macon County News, Pruitt was arrested after a long-term undercover investigation named, “Operation Hidden Guardian.”
Pruitt’s charge of sexual exploitation of a minor follows an undercover investigation that specifically targeted individuals who were willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor. Online child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex. The children these predators target are both boys and girls. Since 2014, the Georgia ICAC Task Force has arrested more than 120 people in similar operations.
“Operation Hidden Guardian” involved joint cooperation with several agencies including: Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Floyd County Police Department Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center (GISAC), Glynn County Police Department, LaGrange Police Department, Marietta Police Department, Tallapoosa Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Secret Service.
The investigation took several months to plan and over a five-day period, investigators engaged in more than 600 exchanges between individuals on social media platforms. More than 400 of those were exchanges in which the subject initiated contact and directed the conversation towards sex. The exchanges involved websites used for dating, socializing, or even websites used for classified advertisements. Some persons when told they were talking with a minor reacted appropriately and ceased communications. However, in some of those instances, the subject continued to communicate. Over the course of the operation, almost 40 cases were established that met the threshold for arrest. Twenty-one of those cases were concluded with arrests. In some of those cases, the adult introduced obscene or lewd content, often exposing the minor (undercover agent) to pornography or requesting the child take nude or pornographic images for them.The exchanges lead to the arrest of 20 men who were arrested for charges such as electronic pornography and sexual exploitation of a minor. The individuals who were arrested ranged from 22 to 55 years old and were from North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia.
Kim Elliot, the Interim Jackson County Superintendent of Schools, told media that Pruitt was fired after district officials learned of his arrest. Elliot urges anyone with more information to contact the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at 828-631-1125.
Pruitt is the 51st education related arrest being tracked by American Lens in 2017.
Cox Mills High Teacher Charged with Indecent Liberties
How many arrests will it take for the NCGA to act?
By A.P. Dillon – 11/20/2017
A Cox Mills High school teacher was charged with 3 counts of indecent liberties with a student according to the Concord police department.
Katherine Ross Ridenhour, age 23, was arrested and charged after allegations she had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year old male student.
According to school officials, Ridenhour resigned on November 14, 2017.
The former Cox Mills teacher was hired in August of 2016 a consumer science teacher at the high school as well as a junior varsity cheerleading coach.
WNCN reported on the reactions from parents at the school:
“They need to come up with something more severe and strict in cases like this. I don’t know what but something needs to be done because it’s happening everywhere daily,” said parent Lavonne Strickland.
“I think it’s appalling, and I don’t understand why this keeps happening. It’s being reported a lot and I don’t understand why teachers think it’s ok to mess around with students,” said parent Daisy Rawlins.
“I can’t even wrap my head around how disturbing it is, and why it keeps happening. How far do they go to a teachers background? Are they going to make sure we’re not letting teachers inside our school with our child?” parent of Cox Mill High School student Kim Ouimet said.
The Cox Mills high teacher is the 50th teacher arrest being tracked by American Lens since the start of 2017.
Wake Montessori Teacher Charged with 20 Felonies
2nd Victim Identified
By A.P. Dillon – 11/14/2017
A Wake Montessori teacher has been charged with 20 felonies in relation to sexual contact with a 14-year-old female student.
Nicholas Conlon Smith, 36, was arrested on November 7th and charged with 16 felony counts of statutory rape with a 14-year-old girl and 4 counts of felony sex offense with a student. These charges stem from alleged incidents that occurred between August 2011 and June 2012.
Wake County Assistant District Attorney Christy Joyce told the court that a second victim has been identified and more charges are likely coming. As a result of this information, the bond set for Smith was raised from $1 million to $2 million by the presiding judge in Raleigh.
Smith’s next court appearance is November 29th.
Smith was a teacher at the Montessori School of Raleigh in Wake County for 12 years. At one point Smith held the title of ‘Math Director’ at the school.
“There is nothing more important than the safety of our students. These allegations are extremely disturbing and we are cooperating fully with the police investigation. We will also conduct a comprehensive review of our own policies and procedures as part of our ongoing commitment to protect our students,” said Nancy Errichetti, Head of the Montessori School of Raleigh, in a statement.
The now-former Wake Montessori teacher was a graduate of Enloe High school and North Carolina State University.
Another teacher who attended NC State was arrested earlier this month. Joshua Sessoms was charged in Nash County with four felonies involving a student.
Nicholas Smith is the 49th teacher arrest being tracked by American Lens since January. A teacher from Union County who was charged with 10 felonies of a sexual nature with regard to a student is number 48.
Union County Teacher Charged with 10 Felony Counts Involving Student
Alleged two-year relationship with student
By A.P. Dillon – 11/07/2017
A Union County teacher has been charged with multiple felony counts that involve sexual contact with a student.
Larry Robinson, age 64, was charged with five counts of felony taking indecent liberties with a student and five counts of felony sexual conduct with a student.
The charges stem from accusations of a relationship between a student and Robinson which took place between 2014 and 2015. At the time the alleged relationship began, the student was a junior in high school.
Robinson was arrested at his home in Monroe on Halloween. He had been a teacher at the Central Academy of Technology and Arts (CATA) in Union County since the mid-1980’s.
Robinson became part of CATA’s staff in 2006. Prior to that, he taught at both Monroe Middle School and Monroe High School. He was recognized with a national drama award and was a past North Carolina Theatre Arts Educators Teacher of the Year.
Union County Public Schools released the following statement:
“Good morning/afternoon parents, this is Dr. Kim Fisenne calling with an important message. As you know, I believe it is important to keep the lines of communication open between home and school. I want to let you know that Mr. Larry Robinson will not be in class for an indefinite timeframe due to an investigation. I know you may have questions about this matter, but due to the active investigation, I am not at liberty to share details.
I want you to know that my top priorities are to maintain quality instruction in all theater classes, to continue to keep our students engaged in upcoming activities, and to ensure a supportive school environment. Thank you for your cooperation. Please know that counselors are available should your student struggle and need to speak with someone. Have a good day/evening.”
The Union County teacher is the 48th teacher arrest being tracked by American Lens since January 2017.
Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the Monroe Police Department at 704-282-5769 or 704-282-4756.
Southern Nash High Teacher Charged with 4 Sex Crimes
Did he pass a background check?
By A.P. Dillon – 11/03/2017
A Southern Nash High School teacher has been charged with four sexual offense crimes involving a minor.
Joshua Thomas Sessoms, 24, has been charged with Statutory rape of a child under the age of 15, statutory sex offense with a child under the age of 15, indecent liberties with a student and sex act with a student.
All of the charges are felonies under North Carolina law. Bail was set at $1.5 million dollars.
Sessoms, a former NCSU football player, was arrested in Wake County by the Raleigh Police department. Sessoms resides near NC State University at 2717 Western Blvd. in Raleigh.
According to arrest records, the arrest took place on October 30th and took place at 5230 Greens Dairy Road in Raleigh. The alleged incident occurred on October 6th incident at a Raleigh home where Sessoms had taken the girl.
Sessoms was a science teacher at Southern Nash High School in Nash County, North Carolina. He was hired by the Nash-Rocky Mount County school district in January of 2017, however, school officials indicate his contract was not renewed because of a “license issue.”
School officials in the Nash-Rocky Mount district said that Sessoms was rehired in August through a district “partnership” of some type and Sessoms was placed at Southern Nash High school.
School officials did not comment on whether or not Sessoms had a background check completed on him prior to hiring.
Sessoms has resigned as of October 23rd. Sessoms is the 47th teacher arrest being tracked by American Lens since the beginning of the year.
Janitor in Lee Cty Schools Used Cellphone to Peep in Bathroom
By A.P. Dillon – 10/26/2017
A janitor in the Lee County school district was arrested for using a cellphone to peep on another person while they were in a bathroom according to law enforcement.
The janitor, Toney Waddell Feaster, of 258 Kelly Road in Sanford, was charged by the Lee County Sheriff’s department with secretly peeping using a photographic device.
According to NC state statute, this is a Class A1 misdemeanor.
“Unless covered by another provision of law providing greater punishment, any person who, while in possession of any device which may be used to create a photographic image, shall secretly peep into any room shall be guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor.”
Feaster, age 28, is a janitor at East Lee Middle School. He posted a $5,000 bond and was released.
Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter stated that the school employee who found the phone was the only person to have been recorded by that device.
The device was found in a private staff bathroom and law enforcement said that the incident did not involve any students.
East Lee Middle School released the following statement via telephone to parents:
On October 11, 2017, an employee at East Lee Middle School was dismissed following an investigation into misconduct. While personnel investigations are confidential under state law, we want to provide you with the information we are authorized to disclose. We can assure you that the employee in question has been dismissed, and that the misconduct did not involve students in any way.
Feaster was terminated the same day. It is unclear how long Feaster worked for the district or if a criminal background check was completed on him.
Earlier this month, a teacher in Orange County was arrested for assaulting his wife. Another teacher in New Hanover County was arrested for DWI. The New Hanover teacher is also being investigated for possible inappropriate relationships with students.
JROTC Teacher Charged With Taking Indecent Liberties in Durham School
Quiet Epidemic Continues
By A.P. Dillon – 10/25/2017
A JROTC teacher in Durham County has been charged with one count of taking indecent liberties with a student.
According to state statute, taking indecent liberties with a student is a Class I felony.
Kevin Wade Moore, age 53, was arrested by the Johnston County Sheriff’s office on October 16th at his home in Clayton. Moore was released the same day on a $20,000 unsecured bond.
The sheriff’s office in Durham sent a report to the Johnston County Sheriff’s office on or around October 4th regarding Moore. The report alleged Moore had inappropriately touched a student and had solicited sexual acts from a Hillside High student.
The alleged incident occurred during the 2015-16 school year but did not take place on school grounds but in Moore’s home in Clayton.
Moore resigned on October 10th but had been a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) teacher at Hillside High School in Durham.
Last week, it was reported that a Chapel Hill-Carrboro teacher was arrested for assault on a female and a New Hanover Teacher was arrested on a DWI charge with a pending investigation into inappropriate student contact.
Kevin Moore makes the 46th teacher arrest being tracked by American Lens since January of this year.
Orange County Teacher Arrested For Assault
By A.P. Dillon – 10/18/2017
12-27-18 EDITORIAL NOTE: This story was originally reported in 2017. The charges were voluntarily dismissed on October 12th, and the expungement was official on November 25th. Out of respect for the teacher in question and given the dismissal of charges, the details have been removed.
New Hanover Teacher Charged with DWI; Resigns
Possible inappropriate relationship investigation
By A.P. Dillon – 10/17/2017
A New Hanover teacher has been charged with DWI, reckless driving and is also now being investigated for possible inappropriate relationships with two male students.
Meredith Kokoski, age 33, was charged by Wilmington Police with DWI and Reckless Driving on Friday, October 6, 2017.
Kokoski allegedly crashed into several parked cars with her vehicle, causing damage to one of the cars that has been estimated at around $5,000. No one was injured in the crash.
Kokoski has been an English Teacher, Laney High School in New Hanover County since 2006. Kokoski was a New Hanover teacher of the year in 2014.
According to WECT, allegations of inappropriate relationships surfaced after the DWI arrest was initially reported.
Following her arrest, WECT received information from a former student detailing alleged misconduct between Kokoski and some students. WECT inquired with the school system, who reached out to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office for further investigation.
NHCS Superintendent Tim Markley suspended Kokoski Wednesday morning pending a “personnel investigation.” The school system was not at liberty to provide additional information due to the state’s personnel law. Prior to Wednesday’s decision, Kokoski was on voluntary leave with pay.
The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the investigation Wednesday, but since the allegations made have not been corroborated by law enforcement officials, WECT will not be publishing the details of the alleged misconduct.
Two former Laney High School students have been contacted by the NHCSO for questioning, according to Lt. Jerry Brewer.
WECT also reported that a co-worker, Laura Bullard, had emailed them regarding the character of the New Hanover teacher:
“What you don’t know about Meredith Kokoski is that regardless of any misjudgment; which we all have at one time or another in our lives, she is a beloved teacher, mother and friend to all. What you don’t know is that she spends her free time supporting programs for individuals with special needs.
“What you don’t know is that she encourages love and acceptance through many outreach projects with students in what can be a very challenging time in adolescents’ lives. What you don’t know is that she challenges every student and teacher through word and deed to find and be the positive force for others. If you wish to spotlight her negatives, you’ll likely find just this one…perhaps you should reconsider ruining her life with your salacious grab for an ugly headline. You clearly don’t know Meredith Kokoski.”
New Hanover School officials say that Kokoski is currently still employed, but is currently suspended pending a personnel investigation.
Meredith Kokoski is the 44th North Carolina teacher arrest being tracked by American Lens since the start of 2017.
New Hanover County officials stated that Kokoski resigned November 7th.
East Burke High Teacher Arrested on 6 Felony Counts
$1,500 in false receipts
By A.P. Dillon – 10/10/2017
An East Burke High School teacher has been arrested for submitting nearly $1,500 dollars worth of false receipts for reimbursement.
Hampton Marshall Boggs, age 30 of Valdese, North Carolina, was arrested on 6 felony counts of receiving property under false pretenses.
The East Burke High teacher had been employed with the Burke County school district since 2013.
Boggs was an English teacher and wrestling coach at East Burke High School.
Hampton Boggs was suspended on August 18th and he later resigned on September 14th.
According to a statement by Burke County schools, “Because he resigned without a prior agreement from the superintendent, he voluntarily surrendered his teaching license pending an investigation by the North Carolina Board of Education.”
It is unclear if the district has reported Bogg’s contract breaking resignation to the Department of Public Instruction or the State Board of Education. As of this article going to press, Boggs has not yet appeared on the state’s teacher license revocation page.
The Burke County Schools statement also said that Burke County Public Schools undergoes extensive financial audits annually, follows strict accounting guidelines and has checks and balances in place to prevent and/or detect the mishandling of funds.”
It was apparently an audit which caught the false receipts submitted by Boggs.
A check of criminal and public records revealed that Boggs has been charged with at least two DWI’s in the last two years and multiple charges of speeding and for expired tags and registration.
The East Burke High teacher’s run-ins with law enforcement date back to 2012.
- April 12, 2016 – DWI, expired tags/registration, expired inspection tag (Voluntary Dismissal by DA)
- February 7, 2015 – Failure to reduce speed
- April 1, 2015 – DWI, Driving Left of Center, Civil Revocation of Drivers License
- April 2, 2013 – Speeding (Voluntary Dismissal by DA)
- July 2, 2012 – Improper use of traffic lane, expired tags/registration
- April 17, 2012 – Expired tags/registration
Boggs is the 43rd teacher arrest American Lens has tracked since the beginning of 2017.
Last month, a Burke County middle school teacher named Michael Lowman was charged with 1 felony count indecent liberties with a minor and 2 counts felony sexual exploitation of a minor.
Burke County Teacher Arrested on 2nd Degree Child Exploitation Charges
By A.P. Dillon – 09/27/2017
A Burke County teacher had been arrested on two counts of second-degree child exploitation charges.
Michael Harrison Lowman, 31, of Rector Street in Valdese, North Carolina was arrested by Burke County Sheriff’s Officers for the child exploitation charges and was also charged with Indecent Liberties with a Child.
Lowman is being held on a $250,000 secured bond. He taught fourth grade at George Hildebran Elementary School in Burke County. Lowman is no longer teaching in the Burke County Public School system. Media reports say he has surrendered his teaching license.
Superintendent of Burke County Public Schools, Dr. Larry Putnam, issued the following statement:
“I am deeply saddened about the news of this arrest and these charges. Our primary goal is always the safety and well-being of our students. The George Hildebrand community is a strong community and they have our full support. Burke County Public Schools is working closely with local and state law enforcement agencies as this investigation continues. Anyone with information related to the investigation should contact the Burke County Sheriff’s Department. Burke County Public Schools conducts a thorough background investigation into potential employees during the pre-employment process. If criminal allegations arise during employment we work directly with law enforcement to ensure a thorough investigation. We encourage anyone with suspicions that if they see something, they should say something and report it to administration or those in authority.”
Lowman was hired as a teacher assistant at George Hildebrand from October 2009 through August 19, 2012. Michael Lowman became a full-time teacher at the same school starting on August 20, 2012. He held the position until September 15, 2017.
Lowman apparently also served as a bus driver between May 2015 to September 2017.
The Burke County Sheriff’s office released the following statement:
On Friday, September 15, 2017, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children contacted the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Computer Crimes Unit regarding a social networking and dating application/website. There was information including images between what was believed to be a minor child and an adult. These images were of a graphic nature and depicted juveniles in a state of undress. The NCSBI made contact with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office and local Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce representatives within the Burke County Criminal Investigations Division. The subsequent investigation led law enforcement to a Michael Lowman of 2897 Rector St. in Valdese, NC.
Special Agents with the NCSBI and Burke County Sheriff’s Office conducted interviews with the residents of 2897 Rector Street including Michael Lowman. During the course of these interviews, probable cause was developed to seize Lowman’s cellular device. Evidence was obtained including a number of images that were defined under North Carolina General Statue 14-190.13 as Child Pornography.
The NCSBI conducted a polygraph examination with Lowman and a joint taskforce of local and state Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce members conducted an interview with Lowman. Lowman disclosed that he had downloaded and uploaded child pornography utilizing his cellular device. He also admitted that he had taken immoral, improper and/or indecent liberties with minor children for the express purpose of arousing and/or gratifying his sexual desire.
Lowman was arrested on two counts of 2nd Degree Exploitation of Minors and one count of Indecent Liberties with a Child. He was arraigned before a Burke County Magistrate, where he received a $250,000.00 Secured Bond.
The statement concludes, stating that, “Members of the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce are still conducting an investigation and the potential of additional charges are pending.”
American Lens has been tracking teacher arrests in North Carolina since January 2017. The Burke County teacher makes the 41st such teacher involved arrest.
Rowan County Teacher Arrested; Thousands of Inappropriate Facebook Messages
By A.P. Dillon – 09/26/2017
A Rowan County teacher is facing charges of indecent liberties with a student.
The content of the messages implied an improper relationship between Dexter and the student.Mark Robert Dexter, 42, was arrested after a complaint was filed with law enforcement citing communication with a female student via Facebook Messenger.
According to the police documents, the time stamps on some of the messages showed that Dexter was communicating with the student from his personal cell phone during school hours.
The messages apparently date back to September 9, 2017. The messages show that the Rowan County teacher was making plans for the student to come to his home. It does not appear that had yet occurred, however.
Investigators said that over the course of eight days thousands of messages were exchanged resulting in over 400 pages of evidence in the case.
Dexter lives in the 100 block of Brookstone Way and is being held at the Rowan County detention center on a $150,000 bond.
A second $75,000 bond has been added after the second charge of indecent liberties with a minor was added to Dexter by law enforcement. The second charge involves the same student as the original charges.
Dexter was hired by the Rowan-Salisbury School system in July 2004. He has resigned.
Public Information Officer Rita Foil of Rowan-Salisbury Schools released the following statement:
Erwin Principal Daniel Herring has met with his staff and is communicating thru various avenues with parents in the Erwin community.
In addition, Rowan-Salisbury Schools is supporting the Erwin students and staff with additional counselors for as long as needed.
While we can not address specific incidents, we are sad and heartbroken anytime we receive reports of inappropriate conduct towards any of our students.
We have policies and procedures in place to handle these situations immediately. We are also fortunate to have excellent relationships with law enforcement as we partner together to conduct investigations and to keep our students and schools safe.
We will continue moving forward in keeping safety a top priority in our schools.
Dexter makes the 42nd teacher arrest in North Carolina since American Lens began tracking them in January 2017.
CMS Substitute Teacher Faces 7 Felony Counts [Updated]
By A.P. Dillon – 09/19/2017
A CMS substitute teacher is facing 7 felony counts of indecent liberties with students.
Lamont Deshon Barret, age 31, was arrested September 13th in Lexington, South Carolina but was transported back to Mint Hill, North Carolina for interviewing. Barrett was then charged and is being detained in the Mecklenburg County jail.
Barrett has been set with a $10,000 bond for each count and will appear in court on September 27.
Since this report original went to press, an additional county of indecent liberties has been added, bringing the total to 8.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say that Barrett had, “inappropriate contact with a 16-year-old male student, as well as showing him inappropriate videos of a sexual nature.
Rocky River High issued the following statement about the CMS substitute teacher:
Dear Rocky River families, this is Principal Turner. The Mint Hill Police Department notified me about an investigation regarding inappropriate conduct with a student that has led to the arrest of a former substitute. CMS is fully assisting in the investigation. The substitute is no longer employed with the district since September 1st. This is a police matter and I have no more information that I may provide. Should you have any questions, please call the Mint Hill Police Department.
Barrett was removed from the classroom on September 1st and subsequently fired.
CMS Substitute Has Prior Record
Lamont Barrett has had prior arrests for driving with a revoked license and drug possession. Barrett was arrested for possession of marijuana according to arrest records.
A background check was done on Barrett before being hired by the Charlotte Mecklenburg district. His past arrest record and drug charges would have shown up on such a check, yet it appears Barrett was hired on March 30th of this year as a CMS substitute.
The State Board of Education says that they do not have Lamont Barrett listed in their database as a licensed teacher in the state of North Carolina.
In July, part of a bill at the General Assembly that would have made deeper criminal background checks mandatory statewide was left to die in committee.
Mint Hill law enforcement officials handling the case now say that the hiring practices employed by CMS have become part of the investigation. Anyone with information about the case is urged to call their office: (704) 545-1085.
Ledford High coach arrested, charged with assault on a female
By A.P. Dillon – 09/14/2017
A Ledford High School football coach was arrested last week and charged with assault on a female. Ledford High School is located in Davidson County.
Christopher Todd Adams, 42, of Asheboro, was charged last Friday and was jailed in Randolph County. Adams turned himself in to deputies and has been suspended by the school district.
Ledford Principal Chris Johnston told media “You know I can’t comment. I can’t comment on any of that.”
Adams is the 40th media reported arrest of an educator in North Carolina during 2017.
See more articles from American Lens on the Quiet Epidemic of teacher arrests in the state.
Quiet Epidemic: Teachers Charges Include Rape, Assault, DWI
By A.P. Dillon – August 16, 2017
More arrests of teachers in North Carolina. Charges include rape, assault and DWI.
Laura Ashley Beard
Laura Ashley Beard, 26, of Davis Street in Jacksonville was arrested charged with driving while impaired and civil revocation of her driver’s license. When pulled over around 2 a.m. during the July 4th holiday weekend, Beard blew a 0.19 on the breathalyzer.
Beard is a 10th grade English teacher at Jacksonville High School in Onslow County, according to the school’s website.
Beard’s teacher page at the schools says that “She is a North Carolina Teaching Fellow and is thankful to be working back in Onslow County, especially at the greatest high school in Jacksonville!”
Court documents stated she could be released to a “sober and responsible adult. A $500 bond was set for her release. According to N.C. Court records, a court date is scheduled for Sept. 5, 2017.
Brown has been accused of inappropriately touching several young boys during a summer camp that he held at his home over the summer. The name of the camp is “G.U.D.B.O.Y.S.” (Gentlemen Understanding Destiny By Overcoming Your Statistics). He is also charged with and assaulting some of them.
The official charges are two counts of indecent liberties with a child and two counts of indecent liberties with a student.
Brown is a 5th-grade teacher at Billingsville Elementary School in Charlotte.
The Charlotte Mecklenburg School district has suspended him with pay. Brown also worked at Rama Road Elementary School from 2011 to 2015.
WNCN obtained details of the search warrant for Brown’s home and they are disturbing.
At least four male children, ages 10 to 11 reported being punched, hit with a belt, touched and ‘washed on the genitals’ by Brown when showering. They also report he would have some of them sleep in the same bed with him.
Lee Annette Williams
Lee Annette Williams, 50, teaches at Ledford Middle School in Davidson County and is charged with sexually assaulting a former student eight years ago. The victim was only 14 years old at the time and just recently came forward.
Williams is charged with three counts of statutory rape, three counts of statutory sex offense and four counts of indecent liberties with a minor.
She posted a $50,000 secured bond once shortly after arriving at the Davidson County Jail.
The district says it’s “aware of the charges” and will take “appropriate action” but it does not appear she has been suspended yet.
We reported on Troy Pickens back in January of this year. Pickens, 26, of Raleigh was arrested in Rockingham by US Marshals.
Pickens raped a 14-year-old female student. His charges include two counts of first-degree sex offense with a child and first-degree rape of a child.
Since the original report, the district attorney has added three more sex crimes charges to the list of offenses committed by Pickens.
He was a teacher in Wake County at Durant Road Middle School but was suspending pending an investigation.
It appears Pickens passed a basic background check.
A Wake County Public Schools spokesperson said in a statement to WRAL that, “The school system conducts criminal background checks on all applicants. The outcome of those checks is strictly confidential and we cannot disclose an individual’s information. However, if a background check reveals sexual misconduct, we do not hire that applicant.”
At the end of the last session, North Carolina’s General Assembly gutted the bill that was supposed to implement more detailed criminal background checks of educators.
Three More Teacher Arrests In NC
By A.P. Dillon – May 17, 2017
There have been three more teacher arrests in North Carolina.
The latest round of arrests follows the trend of arrests and charges mainly related to sexual contact with students.
WSOCTV: Neil David Krasnigor
IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. – An Iredell-Statesville Schools teacher is accused of touching students inappropriately, the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
Neil David Krasnigor, 57, was a teacher at Mount Mourne IB School when the report was filed on March 27.
Krasnigor is charged with seven counts of indecent liberties with a minor and one count of assault on a female.
There were three victims between 12 and 14 years old, officials said.
WFMY: Christopher Allen Reeves
GUILFORD COUNTY, NC ”” A former Jamestown Middle School employee is accused of setting up a hidden camera in a school changing room to gather images for over two years.
Christopher Allen Reeves, the school’s media specialist, was arrested by the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday for two felony counts of Peeping Using a Photographic Imaging Device and two felony counts of Possessing a Photographic Image Obtained in Violation of the Peeping Statute. Reeves, 47, received a $10,000 bond.
On April 30, detectives began an investigation after a school employee reported suspicious images on an electronic storage device at the school. The sheriff’s office says images were taken from a camera in a changing room between Jan. 2013 and Dec. 2015. Guilford County Schools says Reeves resigned May 1 when he learned of the investigation.
WSOCTV: Juan Carlos Vazquez
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A South Mecklenburg High School teacher is accused of inappropriate contact with two male students, officials said.
Juan Carlos Vazquez, an English teacher at the school, was arrested and charged with three felony counts of indecent liberties with a student, as well as three sex acts with a student.
Channel 9 learned that the victims are two male students, ages 17 and 18.
Vazquez promised good grades for sex acts, according to the district attorney’s office.
Officials said he asked one of the male students for a threesome and if he did, he would get an “A.”
One victim was photographed in his underwear, prosecutors said.
The incidents started in January and happened at Vazquez’s apartment.
Last month, American Lens reported on four teachers in the state who had been arrested on various charges.
Since the start of 2017, teacher arrests in the state have included charges such as possession of heroin, drug paraphernalia, driving while impaired, careless and reckless driving, possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance, and assault on a person under 12 years of age.
Also included in the list of charges were assault on a handicapped person, soliciting a child by a computer, human trafficking and soliciting a child for sex acts online.
The majority of teacher arrests were for sexual contact or relationships with students.
THE QUIET EPIDEMIC SERIES
Teacher Arrests in NC: A Quiet Epidemic
If these were Hollywood producers, would it be a bigger story?
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.
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’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.
A Quiet Epidemic: What Background Checks Miss
What’s missing from the background check process?
By A.P. Dillon – 06/21/2017
How effective are background checks on teachers in North Carolina and what can be done to strengthen them?
That’s the question we’re asking.
Last week’s article, Teacher Arrests: A Quiet Epidemic, covered the last six months of trends in teacher arrests.
Those arrests covered a wide range of charges, but the majority were for sexual contact with students.
Also reported was the failing grade North Carolina received in a USA Today report for background checks on educators.
One case was highlighted in the previous report, that of Robert Woodard in Chatham County Schools. Woodard was arrested on 33 various counts, yet allegedly passed a background check.
American Lens has issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Chatham County Public Schools for more information on Woodard.
Slipping Through Background Checks
In districts who already do background checks, it appears there is an area not being included: Child Protective Service Orders.
In certain instances, there appears to have been deals made with Child Protective Services which have obscured arrests from employers and background checks.
The following is a case study illustrating how one teacher has slipped through the cracks.
Some of the names and locations have been changed, as the case is currently ongoing. However, the current county where litigation is taking place is being left in the record unchanged. This case is transpiring in Chatham county – the same county as the Robert Woodard case.
American Lens has viewed the litigation documents and has based this case study on that documentation.
Jane Doe – The History
In the late 1990’s, 18-year-old Jane Doe had her first child; a girl we will identify as ‘Baby K’. Around that same time, Jane also was attending college and was using drugs – cocaine and crack in particular.
Jane drops out of school at some point, after allegedly using student loan funds to buy drugs.
In 2000, Baby K’s father’s parents had learned of Jane’s drug use and contacted Child Protective Services (CPS) concerned over their granddaughter’s well-being.
The child is removed from the home approximately within the next two years. Around the same time period, Jane is required to enter a drug rehabilitation center.
When Jane is released, CPS requires an intervention period which consists of drug tests and home visits both random and scheduled.
Between the years of 2003 and 2005, co-workers witnessed her heavy use of crack and cocaine.
The agent had been allowing her to take the test in a closed bathroom.
During this same span of two to three years, Jane frequently obtained crack and cocaine by sleeping with a drug dealer in exchange for the drugs.
In 2003, Jane is forced to relinquish custody of Baby K permanently after she fails a drug test and an incident involving injury to Baby K caused by her drug use.
In 2004, Jane Doe’s parental rights are terminated and Baby K’s grandparents formally adopt her.
Jane Doe Has a Second Child
During late 2004 Jane becomes pregnant by a co-worker but was still dating a long-term girlfriend. Jane moves in with the father/co-worker, who hopes to get Jane off drugs in order for the child to be born.
In 2005, Jane gives birth to a second daughter we will identify as ‘Baby L’. Jane has relapsed and is using drugs again.
Baby L’s father assumes the role of primary caregiver and parent. Four years pass by and the father has had enough; he gets Jane to finally move out by paying off her credit card debts.
Hired By A North Carolina School District
Between 2005 and 2007, Jane has completed her coursework for a degree in education.
In 2007, Jane is employed in a North Carolina school district. She stays in that district until June 2011, teaching children in the 6th and 8th grades.
While employed as a teacher, Jane enters into a relationship in 2010 with a man who also happens to be a heroin addict and has recently been paroled.
Jane’s new love interest is a repeat felon, who has spent most of his adult life in prison, has a wrap sheet 40 pages long, including crimes for killing a man in prison.
Jane hides the relationship, which continues on and off for several years, from Baby L’s Father and her parents.
In August 2011, Jane is hired in another North Carolina School district teaching 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts and Social Studies. Jane Doe is still currently employed in this district.
Jane has also worked part-time in a “Kinder-Care” daycare facility since 2009 and is allegedly still doing so.
In 2016, Jane filed to gain part-time custody of Baby L. This action set of a chain of legal inquiries and actions which are the basis for most of this article.
What Did The School District Know And When?
Through depositions, FOIA’s and other legal avenues, it was revealed that Jane Doe had told Chatham County school officials in August of 2016 that she, “entered a rehabilitation program in 2000, and [she] last used drugs in 2003.”
In light of uncovered evidence, this statement by Doe appears to be false.
Court documents record Jane Doe made a sworn statement about marijuana use from 2007-2011 and admitted to use of narcotics. Heroine is an example of a narcotic. Marijuana, crack and cocaine are not classified as narcotics.
In a meeting with school officials in August 2016, Jane Doe volunteered to take a drug test.
Seven days after that meeting, Chatham County Public Schools ordered a drug test for Jane at the beginning of September 2016. The district gave her a week’s notice that she would be tested.
It should be noted that crack and cocaine only show up in urine test results for approximately 2-5 days.
Hair follicle testing is required to test for drug use over a longer period. The test administered to Doe was a urine test.
The test came back ‘normal’.
Second Drug Test Administered
Doe was given another drug test in November 2016.
Chatham Human Resources said that they didn’t know about the second test. It is unclear who required it, but a likely guess is Doe’s alternate employer – the daycare center.
Those test results showed “Abnormal” Creatinine, which are chemical waste levels produced by the kidneys and are used to assess the validity of a urine specimen for drug testing. The concentrations of these levels are set forth in federal regulations.
Jane’s “abnormal” reading showed that her sample was not accurate.
This reading is indicative that an individual has “beat the test” by drinking excessive fluid (2-4 liters within a few hours of the test) in an effort to flush drugs from their system.
To date, Jane has received no disciplinary actions from the school district and suffered no monetary harm.
Unrelated to the school district, a background check was performed on Jane Doe in November 2016 for work related to the daycare facility.
That background check did not report an outstanding warrant for Doe, which had been in the system since October 2016.
Jane Doe Alerted To CPS Inquiries
In November 2016, Jane Doe files a lawsuit against the tipster that alerted school officials to her past history with CPS and past drug use seeking $250,000 in damages.
The tipster had knowledge of Jane’s past and was concerned that individuals subject to a CPS order could teach in NC schools – something that laws prevent in over 30 other states.
In an effort to understand the application process, and whether the process was flawed or Jane had just lied during her hiring process, the tipster started making inquiries as to both.
The tipster had questioned and reported to the principal of Jane’s school originally in July of 2016.
No action was taken by the school to confirm or dismiss the caller’s allegations.
The same tipster submitted a FOIA request to Chatham County in mid-August and followed up about a week later on the request with the Superintendent of Human Resources.
During that follow-up, the tipster again reported the same information regarding Jane’s past history with CPS and drug use as the cause for the tipster’s concern about the current state of teacher and staff application processes and background checks.
Human Resources pressed the tipster for any information they may have about current drug use, but the tipster was not in a position to provide such information.
It was only after this call that Jane was notified that there was some concern about her history of drug use and a CPS order.
Background Checks and CPS
Through the two phone calls and the FOIA request, the tipster learns that Chatham County has no questions on its application seeking information on former drug use other than admission of arrests/convictions.
North Carolina background checks do not include a requirement for inquiring about CPS orders from applicants.
A North Carolina statute under the juvenile justice rules prevents the public from requesting a copy of a CPS order (to protect the privacy of the victim child), with some limited exceptions.
There is no exception to the statute for purposes of public school review during the hiring process or during the employment, of a school employee. However, nothing prevents the schools from asking a candidate or employee if a CPS order exists, nor are they prevented from asking the candidate to request and produce the CPS order.
In the next installment, American Lens will examine how the district’s attempts to keep this case quiet, despite Jane Doe’s abnormal drug test results and being made aware of her past issues with drugs.
A Quiet Epidemic: Flawed Process, Broken System
Cases like this are being kept quiet
By A.P. Dillon – 06/22/2017
American Lens has been delving into the quiet epidemic of teacher arrests, background checks and what districts are doing – or in some cases, not doing – to ensure a safe learning environment for North Carolina children.
In the last installment in the series, A Quiet Epidemic, we examined a case study of a teacher with serious past drug use who has had Child Protective Orders issued against them.
We covered the history of this teacher that we have named ‘Jane Doe’ and began to unravel what the school district knew and when about Doe.
Enter a ‘tipster’. The tipster had read the USA Today special investigative report on teachers in the classroom and was shocked by North Carolina’s failing rating for teacher background checks.
For several years after, tipster had wondered how on earth Jane had remained a teacher in a classroom.
Had Jane concealed the truth, or did North Carolina public schools simply not care if a teacher’s parental rights have been permanently terminated and connection with a Child Protective Services intervention, related to drug use or otherwise?
It turns out both appear to be true. What’s more, it appears that the school district is taking advantage of the opportunity to deter reports from the public about concerning behavior of teachers.
Tipster made two phone calls and began an effort to raise awareness and legislative change around gaps in the backgrounding process in North Carolina schools. The first call was in July to the principal of Jane’s school and the second one in August to Chatham County Human Resources.
Tipster was careful to keep the information she gave in each call as identical as possible. She sat back and awaited the results of Chatham County’s investigation into her report.
In this article, we’ll lay out what has been done about Jane Doe and the arguable effort by the district to keep this case quiet.
Quiet Epidemic – Human Resources
In the last installment, it was noted that Jane Doe was made aware of a citizen poking around in her history with Child Protective Services and past drug use.
Doe responded by filing a civil suit against the citizen tipster.
Jane Doe’s civil lawsuit against the tipster hinges on her claim that school officials informed her that the tipster had reported that Jane Doe was currently (i.e. actively) using cocaine, a contention the tipster emphatically denies.
For Jane to prevail, she has to prove that the statements made by the tipster were not false, were conveyed as a fact, and believed to be true by the person receiving the statements.
In a deposition, the principal denied telling Jane the identity of the tipster or the allegation that the tipster accused Jane of current/active cocaine use.
Yet also in a deposition the principal emphatically asserted that the tipster told her Jane “was and is a current cocaine user.” This assertion is in contradiction to both the Principal’s notes from the July call and her reaction to the call.
If this contradictory testimony by the Principal was the case, it raises very concerning questions about the principal’s inaction with respect to an allegation of a teacher’s active use of cocaine.
Notes from the tipster’s call taken by the Superintendent of Human Resources in August 2016 do not mention any accusation of current/active cocaine or other drug use of Jane.
Human Resources notes specifically state, “Thinks she has been on and off drugs for 5 years.”
Human Resources testified that if she wrote those words down, then it was the words used by the tipster.
More Denials, Then Quiet Admission
The tipster reports that during the August call with Human Resources, they discussed the FOIA request which Human Resources had received the prior week related to information on hiring and background check practices of the county. Similar FOIA’s have also been sent to several other North Carolina county school districts.
The tipster also reports that Human Resources was very thorough in asking questions seeking more depth of understanding about the knowledge tipster had about Jane.
In a deposition, Human Resources denies asking questions or even saying much at all.
In addition, Human Resources also at first denies understanding why the tipster called or that it was in relation to the FOIA request.
It isn’t until after tipster’s attorney directs Human Resources to several locations in their own notes of the tipsters call that Human Resources admits that the call discussed the FOIA request and its purpose on their August telephone call.
Yet, when counsel questioned Human Resources if the word “thinks” means someone is about to convey an opinion or belief, HR went round and round with the attorney trying to avoid confirming that what followed “thinks” was an opinion or belief.
The transcript of this testimony is comical, the back and forth goes on for four pages.
By the end, Human Resources begrudgingly admits that such statements were conveyed as opinions.
Keeping It Quiet – The Principal
In early October 2016, the tipster circulated an editorial to several news outlets raising the issue of NC not requiring a Child Protective Services (CPS) order check.
The editorial did not name Jane, but it did state that Chatham County and another county had hired a teacher with a CPS order which resulted in the termination of a teacher’s parental rights.
That same month, tipster informed the Chatham County Superintendent about the editorial. At this time, almost two months had passed since Jane admitted that her child had been removed by CPS and some information related to her history of illegal drug use.
The superintendent sent the tipster an email, expressing that his hands were tied by NC law on confirming if the teacher was the subject of a CPS order.
Keeping It Quiet – Closed Sessions
In e-mail correspondence dated October 12, 2016, which contained the minutes of a closed session of a school board meeting, the minutes reflect that the superintendent named the tipster.
The superintendent also informed the county school board that tipster made allegations about Jane abusing illegal drugs, and a child being removed from custody.
In the e-mail, the Superintendent tells the board that Jane Doe volunteered to take a drug test and agreed to an updated criminal background check.
The Superintendent also tells the board that the drug results are negative, yet it the results were actually, “abnormal.”
The superintendent does not tell the board that there was a seven-day warning period for the drug test that was administered in September.
Based on those minutes, the superintendent does not tell the school board that Jane admitted to a child being removed by CPS in connection with her drug use. He also does not share that she admitted to some history of cocaine use.
According to the minutes of the school board’s closed session, the superintendent goes on to try to discredit the tipster to the board based on Jane’s statements about the tipster made while she was being questioned by Human Resources.
Jane Doe’s Criminal Track Record Expands
In October of 2016, an arrest warrant was filed against Jane for criminal computer trespass. She was not arrested until late January 2017.
According to county policy, Jane was suspended with pay until the resolution of the case.
In March 2017, Jane admitted to and plead guilty to the facts supporting the criminal computer trespass charge as set forth in the warrant.
As a first time offender, Jane was offered a “deferred prosecution agreement”, whereby her case would be dismissed if she complied with steps specified and overseen by the district attorney’s office.
Because the computer trespass charge was under the jurisdiction of a court order in the separate civil lawsuit Jane had initiated in March of 2016, the District Attorney declined to further oversee the matter and dismissed the criminal charges on the same day as Jane’s admission of guilt.
A deferred prosecution agreement can remain on an individual’s criminal record for several months to a year, depending on the reporting county and background check service.
Chatham County schools brought Jane back into the classroom based on her statement to the administration that the charges had been dismissed.
No record of dismissal was produced to Chatham County administrators nor did they request one.
In a deposition, Human Resources stated that she had no knowledge of the deferred prosecution agreement that Jane had entered into with the District Attorney in March 2017.
The Need For Independent Investigations
Meanwhile, in January of 2017, the tipster now had enough proof of her claims provided through the two lawsuits filed by Jane Doe to make a report to the State School Board.
The tipster contacted one of the State Board of Education’s attorneys about the case study in Chatham County. The tipster also provided the discovery documents obtained from the lawsuits.
The caller continued to update the file with more admissions by Jane Doe including that she had also violated Chatham County Schools Handbook Rule 7110:
“All information provided to the personnel office by an applicant for employment or by an employee must be true, accurate and complete to the best of that applicant’s or employee’s knowledge.
Presenting information to the personnel department that is intended to defraud, falsify, materially misrepresent or conceal the truth will be considered just cause for terminating the application process or, as a violation of board policy, grounds for dismissing an employee.”
In April 2017, the State School Board informed the tipster that they were sending the file to County Counsel.
The ‘county counsel’ turned out to be the same counsel who advised the superintendent and Human Resources on the original Jane Doe investigation.
In an email to the tipster about the case, State Board of Education attorney indicated this was the ‘normal procedure’.
“Our normal procedure when we receive documents and/or complaints from the public concerning a licensed teacher is to forward that report to the local board attorney. This office does not have the staff to do the necessary investigation regarding reports of teacher misconduct and rely on the local board attorney(s) to assist us. I am sure that someone from Tharrington” Smith will contact either you or us, when they have had time to properly review the situation.”
What this turn of events illustrates is that, in some cases such as the Doe case, there is no independent investigation function even at the state level.
In other words, the districts seemingly have no oversight. Cases like Jane Doe’s are being shuffled around and kept quiet.
This broken process has allowed a teacher, who had a history of known crack use and criminal violations, to remain in a North Carolina classroom.
Jane Doe Case – A Criminals in the Classrooms Update
A shocking case of a district protecting criminals over kids
As part of our series on the quiet epidemic of criminals in North Carolina Classrooms, we featured a story out of Chatham County involving a middle school teacher we have referred to as Jane Doe.
Read the three-part series:
- Teacher Arrests in NC: A Quiet Epidemic
- A Quiet Epidemic: What Background Checks Miss
- A Quiet Epidemic: Flawed Process, Broken System
We now have an update of that investigation, but first, a recap of the Jane Doe story.
A tipster called Jane’s school to report on incidences of Jane’s past drug use (heavy crack and cocaine use) of which the tipster was aware through Jane’s statements and actions.
Additional statements were reported by those who were, or had been, close to Jane Doe while she was a licensed teacher in NC and earlier in her life, and it was reported that Jane’s daughter had been removed and her parental rights terminated.
Jane’s parental rights had been terminated through an extensive Child Protective Services intervention prior to her receiving licensure to teach children in North Carolina (a licensure that would have been illegal under the laws of over 36 states and the District of Columbia).
The principal failed to even talk to Jane Doe about the report.
Six weeks later, when the county school district received a FOIA request from the tipster (along with 5 other county school districts) regarding background check, hiring, and policy enforcement issues, the Superintendent of Human Resources finally called a meeting with Jane and the principal.
During the meeting, Jane claimed that she had not used illegal drugs since 2003 and had not been in a recovery or rehab program since 2000 or 2002.
Jane explained away the Child Protective Services intervention and subsequent termination of her parental rights as Jane being “too young” to be a parent – Jane was 22 years of age at the time.
A drug test was scheduled by the school and they gave Jane 8 days’ notice. Jane did not test positive for illegal drugs in that test, which is not surprising given the over one-week long advance warning she was given by the Chatham County School District. (As pointed out in an earlier portion of this series, the use of very few illegal substances show up in a urine test taken 8 days later.)
A little over a month later, Jane filed a lawsuit against the tipster using alleged quotes stated to her by the principal of the school and the Superintendent of Human Resources.
In the statement to Jane attributed to the principal in the initial court filing, the principle identified the tipster to Jane – a violation of Chatham County School Board Policy.
The quoted statement of the principal alleged that the tipster stated that Jane “was and is a current drug user.” The tipster denied making the statement.
In court documents, the tipster details the conversation with the principal, in which the principal was informed that the tipster doubted that Jane was currently using drugs primarily because of a lawsuit Jane filed four months earlier attempting to get 50% custody of her second child.
That suit stated that Jane had been very secretive in recent years – going so far as to hide and instruct her young child to lie to family about Jane’s nearly 5 year relationship (which was ongoing while she was teaching) with a heroin addict and member of the Aryan Nation who had killed a man during one of his many incarcerations. Much of this activity by the boyfriend occurred while Jane was dating him.
The tipster maintains that she told the principal, that tipster had no knowledge of any current use and had no means to have such knowledge. The tipster was primarily interested in hiring policies and procedures for teachers, something that Jane’s background raised questions about.
The principal’s handwritten notes taken at the time of the call confirm the tipster’s statement. So then why did the principal tell Jane something different than what the principal had heard and written in her own notes? We may never know since Jane’s case against the tipster has been dismissed. However, the entire situation of Chatham County’s handling of a community tip still leaves even bigger questions for parents across the state.
Jane’s Suit Boomerangs
The suit Jane filed against the tipster was a slander and defamation claim. Those can be dangerous lawsuits for plaintiffs since they often require the plaintiff to reveal wrongdoing they seek to hide. And Jane’s lawsuit did just that.
The tipster filed a complaint with the State School Board and provided them with full access to the court documents arising from the case. The tipster’s concerns were two-fold: One being someone like Jane in a classroom and the other being the investigation process in Chatham County Schools.
Within a matter of a few months, the State School Board had court documents and reports showing the following details about Jane Doe:
- admission to using illegal drugs while teaching; Child Protective Services record; romantic relationship with the Aryan Nation, killer jail bird; use of pills, crack, cocaine, LSD and other illegal substances beginning at age 14; hearing voices; long-time, off and on use of a mix of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs (a mix commonly prescribed to addicts which is found to have some success with crack relapse); regular use of crack and cocaine while breast feeding her youngest child and while student teaching; a drug test (ordered by an entity other than Chatham County Schools that was administered to Jane after the lawsuit was filed ) showing Jane had used an agent to “beat the test;”suicidal attempts and thoughts; participation in a 12-step recovery program in 2009 and 2010 focused on her crack and cocaine addiction
purported demon possession and alleged exorcism
- misleading statements to Chatham County administrators regarding criminal computer trespass charges that she plead guilty to under a deferred prosecution agreement with the Assistant District Attorney for Orange County in 2017
- limited admission to purchasing crack and cocaine with sex; and numerous conflicting statements were given under oath.
The State School Board turned the investigation over to the Chatham County School District attorney, for him to conduct their investigation for them.
Letting the inmates run the asylum in this manner is currently the norm for State School Board investigations – no independent investigation method is required nor even available.
As a reminder from a previous installment of Jane Doe’s story, we are talking about the same county attorney that advised the Chatham County Superintendent when the press became involved in the case.
That same Superintendent made misleading statements to the School Board about Jane and the seriousness of the character traits and actions that had been reported. The Superintendent also went so far as to make false and inflammatory statements about the tipster.
Prior to the case’s dismissal, and 10 months after the tipster’s initial call, the principal was deposed.
In her deposition, she confirmed that she had told Jane that a caller had identified that Jane Doe “was and is a current drug user.” This is an awkward turn of phrase and one that directly contradicts what the principal wrote with her own hand in her own notes as the call was actually taking place.
In her notes from the call, the principal writes, “No knowledge of current drug use,” and at no point in the notes does the principal write that the tipster specifically stated that Jane was currently using drugs.
But something else interesting and disturbing came out in the principal’s deposition. Jane Doe had indicated in the family law case that she may call the principal as a character witness.
The attorney for the child’s father in the custody case commented that the principal had been called as a character witness in other family law matters involving Jane’s attorney’s other clients who taught in her schools.
In the deposition, the principal was asked if she had ever been subpoenaed to be a character witness, or otherwise in a case. The principal denied ever receiving a subpoena, other than to testify on a juvenile matter, and the subpoena that brought her to the deposition in Jane’s slander case against the tipster.
An attorney involved in the cases filed by Jane was perplexed when he heard of this response from the principal because Jane’s family law attorney had subpoenaed the principal in at least two other cases recently in which he was also involved.
The tipster’s counsel sought to have Jane’s family law attorney release copies of all subpoenas he had served on the principal and all communication that they had had, regardless of client. It appeared that there was some sort of relationship or understanding between Jane’s family law attorney and her principal that predated Jane’s case.
It also appeared that the principal may be overly willing to be “helpful” in personal life matters of the personnel she supervises – indeed, court documents show that Jane tried to convince the principal that the tipster was trying to undermine Jane’s attempt at gaining custodial ground with her youngest child.
Jane’s family court attorney put up a fight to delay releasing the files and documents related to his communications with Jane’s principal and the attorney’s use of the principal in his litigation strategy in other cases. Jane then dismissed the case against the tipster before the next steps could be completed to obtain the subpoenas the principal denied receiving and any record of communications the principal had with Jane’s attorney.
A few months after the principal and Superintendent of Human Resources were deposed, and after American Lens started directly probing into administrative and investigative matters related to Jane Doe, Jane was purportedly brought in and questioned about her statement she made almost a year earlier to Chatham County officials.
That statement included that she had not used illegal drugs since 2002.
According to statements made by Jane included in court documents, school officials reportedly made her aware of one incident of illegal drug use while employed as a teacher found in the court files.
This fact showed that Jane was in violation of Chatham Handbook Rule 7110; lying or giving misleading information in a human resources matter, which is a terminable offense.
Jane reported that she was given an ultimatum – she could resign for whatever excuse she chose, or be fired for the cited violation of Rule 7110. Jane chose to resign, citing personal reasons in her original resignation form, and personal and medical reasons in her amended form filed the following day.
Questions Remain In Jane Doe Case
Why did the Chatham County middle school principal state she had never received a subpoena when there was evidence not only to the contrary, but also directly in connection with one of Jane’s attorneys?
Why did Jane’s principal give Jane an awkward quote to use in a lawsuit against a tipster (who should have been protected under Board policy) that contradicts the principal’s own handwritten notes of the tipster’s call and the tipster’s notes from the call?
Why was Jane given 8 days warning before a drug test?
Why did Jane’s principal do nothing about a tipster’s report until the county received a Freedom of Information Act request six weeks later?
Why did the Superintendent purposefully mislead School Board members about Jane’s limited confessions to school officials and the nature and content of the tipster’s information?
Was the board eventually informed of the factual nature of the tipster’s statements to school officials, as supported by the court documents provided to the county attorney by the State School Board?
Did Chatham County recommend that Jane’s license to teach in North Carolina be suspended or revoked for her deceit?
Why did the county assist a teacher (who they eventually forced to resign) in the legal attack on a person providing a tip to school officials?
Would Chatham County have forced Jane Doe to resign but for the involvement of the press?
Lastly and most importantly: Do parents have to send the press to school to make school administrators do their job?
The in-depth study of the Jane Doe investigation in Chatham County leaves us asking a very terrifying question: Why is it that many NC schools are shocked and seemingly unaware of illegal and harmful activities going on within their school community when the sheriff or press show up?
Are they really completely clueless about things like sexual misconduct going on for months or years? Or are they just used to forming the educators’ equivalent to the Blue Wall of Silence to protect teachers like Jane or sexual predators? Perhaps it’s just the county protecting itself instead of its students.
An Update on Another Former Chatham Teacher
Around that same time American Lens began its investigation of Jane Doe earlier this year, another Chatham county teacher, Robert Woodard, was arrested.
Woodard has since been convicted of 16 felonies. All of the charges were sexual in nature and involved a student under the age of 15.
He was sentenced to 14 years and 5 months and is now incarcerated. Woodard’s minimum amount he can serve is 7 years and 10 months.
As of the publishing of this article, he has not appeared on the NC Teacher License Revocations list.
American Lens has sent an inquiry to the State Board of Education regarding this omission and officials there told us his name was in the process of being added.
What Kicked Off The Quiet Epidemic
Teacher Revocation List Lags Behind Media Reporting of Teacher Crimes
By A.P. Dillon – 01/05/2017
An examination of the North Carolina teacher revocation listing reveals many teachers engaging in illegal or immoral conduct have not had their licenses revoked.
Most of these teachers missing from the teacher revocation list have been reported by local media to have been arrested for engaging in various levels of sexual activity with students.
Of the teacher related arrests reported by the media during 2016 in North Carolina, only 8 of 29 cases appear in the teacher revocation listing.
While these teachers reported by the media have been arrested and charged, convictions are still pending. According to the procedures for teacher license revocation, “illegal, unethical or lascivious conduct by a person” is one of the listed criteria for revocation.
It is unclear whether these individuals have been reported by the responsible county administrators to the Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI) or the State Board of Education. One of the criteria for revocation proceedings is, “failure of school administrator to report revocable conduct.”
Read more about the disciplinary process and related statutes at the State Board of Education website.
In 2016, there were 22 North Carolina teachers with charges of sexual activity involving students.
North Carolina was given an “F” by USA Today in a report on teacher screening in 2015 and given what has been uncovered, the screening process isn’t the only problem. It would appear that many teachers are simply resigning their position when caught engaging in inappropriate activities and are gaining employment in another school or district, often times picking up where they left off.
Here are a few examples.
December 21, 2016 – ABC11 News
Teacher Troy Logan Pickens was arrested by U.S. Marshals near Rockingham stemming from sexual offense charges with a 14-year old student in February of 2015. Pickens had been employed at Neal Middle School in Durham at that time. When he was arrested, it was reported that Pickens had been re-employed in Wake County Schools since July 2015.
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. Snead was employed in Sampson County at Union Middle School when WRAL caught up with her.
To add to matters, the WRAL report interviews former North Carolina Superintendent June Atkinson about the Snead case. This is good reporting, however, WRAL leaves out a key piece of information in that interview.
According to an article in the USA Today report at Citizens Times, under Atkinson’s tenure proposed revisions to the screening process were tabled — for the last six years.
The USA Today report cites ‘failing to pass recommendations on to lawmakers’.
October 23, 2016 – WNCN
Timothy Bennett was arrested for having a sexual relationship with a student at South Lenoir High School in Lenoir County during the 2015-16 school year. When Bennett was arrested, he was employed by Wake County Schools as a Fine Arts teacher at Sanderson High. Bennett apparently was still in contact with the student.
According to WNCN, “Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram says there is no evidence that Lenoir County Public Schools or South Lenoir High School had knowledge of the incident.” The big question is, why not?
Only one of the teachers in the examples given here are currently on the teacher revocation list (Timothy Bennett), however that may hopefully change.
For reference, below is the list of teacher arrests in North Carolina in 2016.
This list was compiled over a 4 month period by searching various media outlets, utilizing Google searches and other search tools. This list may have missed some reported and therefore might not be complete.
American Lens will continue reporting on this topic in the future.