DC Teachers Admit Misconduct But Slip Through Cracks - NBC4 Washington
NEWS4 I-TeamSlipping Through the Cracks
I-Team Investigates Problem Teachers Whose Licenses Languished

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DC Teachers Admit Misconduct But Slip Through Cracks

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    A News4 I-Team investigation found the District government isn't raising red flags to warn schools across the nation when a teacher admits to abusing a child. Scott MacFarlane reports. (Published Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017)

    The Washington, D.C., government is not revoking the licenses of teachers who admit sexual misconduct with kids, nor are D.C. education officials submitting the names of those teachers to a national database used by all 50 states to prevent predators from returning to the classroom.

    The failure of the D.C. government stands in stark contrast to the rules and regulations of other U.S. states, including Virginia and Maryland, which decades ago established systems to revoke the licenses of teachers who admit sexually abusing students.

    A News4 I-Team investigation reveals several D.C. teachers who recently admitted sex crimes with children are not listed in the national NASDTEC database, which includes the names of 78,000 teachers nationwide, many of whom have admitted misconduct with children. The NASDTEC database red flags teachers throughout the nation and disqualifies them from obtaining licenses in the future.

    D.C.'s failure to formally revoke the licenses of teachers who admits sex misconduct increases the odds of those teachers slipping through the cracks and finding work in public schools elsewhere in the nation, according to multiple experts and education officials who spoke with the News4 I-Team.

    “We’re putting someone else’s child at risk. (We risk) putting them in a situation where they shouldn’t be,” said D.C. parent Joe Weedon, who serves on the D.C. State Board of Education, which has oversight of some D.C. education programs but does not have authority over licensure issues.

    “There is potential these individuals could go get a job  elsewhere, because it hasn’t been reported yet, including in Virginia or Maryland,” Weedon said.

    Licensure of teachers in Washington, D.C., is administered by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Rules and regulations needed to give OSSE authority to revoke teacher licenses were not formally approved until 2016, decades later than neighboring states. Those regulations are still being finalized or adjusted, according to officials with OSSE and D.C. Public Schools. Completion is expected no sooner than 2018 or 2019, officials told the I-Team.

    Agency records say OSSE reviewed at least seven teachers for possible license revocations or cancellations, but all of those cases were closed without revocation. The records show zero revocations since 2008, which includes the years before D.C. regulations were updated.

    By filing a series of Freedom of Information Act requests, the I-Team obtained records showing D.C. teachers involved in at least three high-profile cases of sexual misconduct in recent years were allowed to have their licenses expire, rather than face revocation. Because the licenses expired, instead of being revoked, Washington, D.C., education officials were not bound to add the names of the teachers to the national NASDTEC database.

    Teachers Admit Misconduct, Avoid Being Red-Flagged

    Those teachers include Giovanni Pena, who pleaded guilty to a federal sex crime at Oyster-Adams Bilingual School in 2015 and was imprisoned. Parents at Oyster-Adams said they were surprised to learn Pena is not red-flagged nationwide.

    “The teacher did go to jail. He was publicly humiliated, but that’s not enough. He should never be near children again,” said Deon Bell, an Oyster-Adams parent who knew the family of a child Pena admitted sexually abusing.

    The other two teachers who avoided license revocation and the national NASDTEC database are Charles Young, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to a sex crime at Dunbar High School, and John Solano, who pleaded guilty to sex misconduct in 2013 at McKinley Tech High School.

    Child sex abuse therapist Eliana Gil said D.C. should have finalized the needed rules to revoke teacher licenses and contribute names to the national database.

    “The national database was set up for a really good reason,” Gil said. “That’s to protect children. Everybody has got to participate. It takes a village. We all have to be participating in small and large ways to make sure kids are safe.”

    “The school district will terminate or discipline employees for violations of applicable law or regulations, but there was no active process of reporting employees to OSSE for licensure revocation,” a D.C. Public Schools spokeswoman said.

    Charter Schools

    D.C. public charter school teachers are exempt from license revocation and formal listing on the national database of teachers who have admitted misconduct, because Washington, D.C., is one only a handful of jurisdictions that do not require licensure for public charter school teachers.

    The I-Team investigation revealed several public charter school teachers who were charged with misconduct involving students. None is listed in the national database.

    In a statement to the I-Team, the D.C. Public Charter School Board said, “DC PCSB requires all public charter schools to conduct criminal background checks for school staff and volunteers, and schools confirm with us that those checks are completed. DC PCSB does not use the NASDTEC system to verify the credentials or qualifications of public charter school teachers because schools have the flexibility to hire staff that best suit the needs of their individual program type, regardless of licensure status.”

    Background Checks Fail

    According to police reports and charter school records, a D.C. public charter teacher suspected of an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old student in 2004 was able to find a new teaching job at a different, nearby public charter school in 2005.

    Alan Coleman, 46, pleaded not guilty to child sex abuse in D.C. Superior Court. A police affidavit obtained by the I-Team said a former student at KIPP DC KEY Academy accused Coleman of sexually abusing her when she was a 14-year-old student in 2004. The affidavit said a school principal told police she suspected Coleman had an “inappropriate” relationship with a student in 2004 and “asked him to stand down.” The principal told police she did not renew Coleman’s contract because of the relationship.

    Coleman found work from 2005 to 2015 at the Capital City Public Charter School in northwest D.C. despite undergoing a background check, according to a letter sent by Capital City Public Charter School to parents in 2016.

    In their letter to parents after Coleman’s arrest, Capital City Public Charter School said, “We contracted for and received a clean background check of Mr. Coleman at that time, which Capital City requires for all new hires. During his employment, we had no concerns about his work or interactions with our students, and no one ever raised such concerns to us. In February 2015 we learned from an individual not connected with Capital City of allegations that Mr. Coleman had an inappropriate relationship with a minor from 2004-2007. The minor was never a student at Capital City.”

    In a written statement to the I-Team, a KIPP DC spokesperson said, “KIPP DC can confirm that we did not extend Alan Coleman an offer letter for the 2005-2006 school year, after two years of him working at KEY Academy. At the time, had we been aware of any of the misconduct Mr. Coleman was later charged with, we would have immediately alerted the appropriate authorities.”

    The written statement also said, “After learning of the charges against Mr. Coleman, we enhanced our already comprehensive background check processes and employee conduct trainings. For example, we implemented a new system of auditing staff background checks, which includes periodically re-running FBI checks on staff, even if they already passed an initial FBI background check during their hiring process. In addition, we implemented additional mandatory annual trainings for principals on appropriate interactions between staff and students and our obligations as mandatory reporters.”

    Capital City Public Charter School declined requests for an interview with the I-Team.

    Weedon, the D.C. State Board of Education member, said some D.C. public charter schools prefer to not require prospective teachers to obtain a license because it allows for creative hiring of experts and professionals with diverse backgrounds.

    “Without the constraints of the licensure requirements, they're able to do things a little differently,” Weedon said. “Whether or not that outweighs the risk is a question I certainly have.”

    Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.