The Duval County school board in Florida is reviewing its hiring procedures due to two separate incidents of school district teachers arrested for molesting students. Last year, Southside Middle School teacher Robert Luke was charged with sexual battery of a 15-year-old student. More recently, Christopher Bacca, a teacher at Windy Hill Elementary School was arrested for the sexual molestation of a student under 12. Bacca is currently facing several charges of molestation, while Luke has yet to be sentenced for his charges. Both teachers initially passed background checks with the school district, even though they each had been investigated previously due to allegations of misconduct with children without being charged.
The human resources director of Duval school district, Sonita Young, had several recommendations for changing hiring practices within the district. Those included better inter-agency communications, review of training requirements, and actions to strengthen the background check process. School board member Becki Couch agrees that there should be “very tight policies in place” for district employees, and that they are the same “throughout the district.” Although school board members are unsure what the impact of the new rules will be, the hope is that the tighter regulations will do more to protect children within the district.
Parents of students from Windy Hill Elementary are wondering why the school allowed Bacca to teach there, after the first investigation into his alleged misconduct. Parent Eliza Morales is concerned because her sons went to a camp program Bacca was leading. Officials from the school said they are reviewing how the Sheriff’s Office and Department of Children and Families communicate with the district. They will also review policies with the contractor that provides substitute teachers to the school district. The school board is also considering taking teachers out of the classroom for misconduct, even if they are not charged with a crime. Morales is glad school officials are taking steps to address the problems. She said, “As parents, we have to do our own background checks,” and the “incident [has opened her] eyes.”
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Author: Michael Klazema