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tv   News4 I- Team Slipping Through the Cracks  NBC  August 13, 2017 11:30am-12:00pm EDT

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. >> when teachers cross line. >> it happens in all socioeconomic classes, all races, all religions all education levels. >> you've seen them in the headlines. now after a year-long investigation by the news 4 i-team, there are now protections in place to keep students safe from predators. >> when i saw your report, it was like i was hit in the stomach. >> what led to the changes and what you can do to protect your child this new school year. >> the good news is that will continue. >> a news 4 i-team special report "slipping through the cracks." here's reporter scott mcfarland. >> in just a few days classrooms like this one will be filled with students and teachers. educators have a difficult job. the majority are hard working and honest but there are some
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survey more than 3 million students reported sexual conduct with an adult, commonly a teacher or coach. and a review of state disciplinary records in our area by the i-team found dozens of teachers who canceled or had licenses revoked in recent years. some slipped through the cracks. keeping their licenses for years even after admitting to misconduct. over the next half hour, we'll take you through a year long investigation and show you how that happened. and show parents what they need to know to help keep their kids safe. it began with one local teacher in one of america's largest school districts. >> inside randlestown high school, baltimore county, brad norton taught english, one morning in 2012, a tenth grade student said is he sexually assaulted him inside the classroom. according to police report, the 15-year-old said norton touched him on the chest beneath his shirt, then touched his penis, arrested, booked, charged he ea
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sex offense in court. the victim's father said the case had an impact on their family. >> unfortunately i think people naively assume that will educators are there to protect our kids and you know, far too often we see they're not. >> jennifer is a pld community activist who the counsels sex offenders and pushed for tougher background checks on educators. >> abuse is democratic and happens in all races, all religions, all neighborhoods, all education levels. >> the thing is, this was no common case and brad norton was no common teacher. he had a secret. down the road in virginia, in 2004, he was teaching english here, heyfield secondary, fairfax county public schools. but only briefly. becauses in 2004, he was arrested. and we found the details are striking little spectacular. according to school district records, he was accused of rubbing his hands over a student's penis and touching his buttocks. arrested,
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him to resign. he pleaded guilty to assault, avoided jail time but ordered not to work again in a job which he would interact with children. in this document fairfax county public schools notified norton it would recommend the state education department revoke his license. doing so would help red flag him nationwide in a database called nasdec. he would be unable to work in public schools not just in virginia but other states, too. yet, he managed to get that teaching job years later in baltimore county. how? david foster is former president of the virginia state board of education which votes to revoke licenses. >> something went wrong for this to happen because the whole system is designed to prevent this happening. >> the i-team found answers inside school district memos and e-mails which show the public schools failed to follow through, failed to send the necessary paperwork to suspend his license to the state department of education in richmond. the agency charged with formally revoki
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education even sent this reminder letter and a handwritten note in march, 2005 which said no action, nos reb indication can occur till fairfax sends over the necessary paperwork. >> the state has to get notification from the school district. >> correct. >> the state says it received no written response. so norton's license remained intact and he was not red flagged, not immediately disqualified before he applied for the job in baltimore county. after his arrest in baltimore county in 2012, that school district called fairfax with questions about their former teacher. shortly after a fairfax county school administrator wrote this e-mail to the virginia department of education asking, can you advise if you have any record of a license cancellation for bradley jefferson norton? it is not listed on the agency website. an administrator wrote back, it was not receive the and would need to be submitted to us by the school fairfax county schools. >> i'll entertain a motion to revoke the license. t
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>> so moved. >> not till 2013, nine years after his arrest there, did fairfax schools finally submit the necessary paperwork to the state board to revoke brad norton's license. fairfax public schools declined to answer questions why he slipped through the cracks end sending us a statement for legal reasons it can't comment on personnel matters and since changed the process it uses for teacher license reb indications and now files all the necessary paperwork to revoke a license in an expedited manner. for weeks we tried to talk to norton but no one answered the door inside his home. by phone he declined to comment. jennifer alvaro says she worries it won't be the last case of its kind. >> local communities sometimes drop the ball. >> frequently drop the ball into don't do what they're supposed to do. >> correct. >> after our first report aired, a school board member asked for a formal review of school license reb indications to ensure no other license had fallen through the cracks. the sc d
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written statement it was unaware of any other similar cases. then two weeks after our story, the county's outgoing superintendent karen garza told david culver, the handling of the norton case was unacceptable. >> my goodness, absolutely not. in fact, you know, we've -- since i've been here, the minute we have any kind of challenge with any of our employees, which thankfully is very rare, we have great employees but occasionally we'll have a situation, we hold them accountable and we turn them over to the vdeo to have their license revoked. >> how confident are you that no one else has fallen through the cracks. >> very confident. >> she was wrong. we found other teachers who admitted to sexual misconduct with students in fairfax county. yet kept their licenses for years. >> to protect his daughter's identity, richard asked we not show his face. >> i feel there's an institutional pattern to sweep it under the
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>> reporter: his daughter went to a high school in 2005 and reported to school officials her teacher touched her appropriately. groping her buttocks. ten times. two of her classmates accused the teacher, too. >> she had the least of the problems with the guy. her friends got it worse. >> a memo obtained by the i-team called the behavior grossly unprofessional. the teacher was charged with assault and fired. yet, the i-team found fairfax schools failed to send in the paperwork to virginia state officials as required to revoke his teaching license till 2012, seven years later. richard told us he thinks he knows why. >> their image, to keep it out of the news. >> you don't think it might have been an accident or an oversight? >> no, they're avoiding transparency. >> not only did we find his case though, the news 4 i-team found two more cases, two more fairfax teachers who slipped through the cracks. what's more, we found the school district knew about them and didn't tell us the full story. >> it took them a
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years to provide the paperwork needed to cancel the license of anden dale teacher who pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. and another charged with indecent exposure outside a mall. investigators found he had inappropriate photos of female students of their breasts and buttocks. 12 years later, his case was found languishing. > it's problematic. >> and it wasn't found by fairfax schools but by nancy walsh, an investigator with the department of education in richmond who spotted the case while pulling records for our report. >> is it problematic to let licenses languish for years before they're revoked? >> definitely, if there is a basis for action against a license and anytime passed before the action is taken, that whole interim period is troubling. >> we wanted to know why these mistakes were being made over the past decade and asked
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fairfax schools to talk to their current superintendent. they provided us a human resources official inattend. >> do we know why it took years? >> i've been here since january. what i can tell you is about 2013 it, we took a hard look at our processes and from that point forward, we've been proactive and getting information on our end and in sending that to vdoe so they can make the decisions. >> chase rainy couldn't tell us what happened in 2013 to cause the change. >> we're going through our records to make sure that we are aware and that we provided all the appropriate information on all the cases. we don't believe there's any more cases. >> would you be surprised if there were more out there? we don't know about them yet? >> i expect it. >> we continue to check every license reb indication in the county to find out if richard is right. if you know of a case we should be looking into call our tip line 202-885-4444 or e-mail us @tips @news 4
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why is it so difficult to check a teacher's past? parents or students can't easily find out why some lost their license. >> does it surprise you that his teaching license was just canceled? >> it surprises me it took so long. >> just ahead, how maryland and virginia are changing the critical information provided to the public.
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welcome back to a news 4 i-team special report, slipping through the cracks. once again, here's scott macfarlane. >> when local school teachers are arrested or accused of sexual misconduct with students, it often makes headlines as you're about to see with the next case, the news 4 i-team looked into. but what happens to those teachers? are their licenses when the cases end? unlike many, many other states, it can be almost impossible for the media, parents or students in our area to find
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guilty verdict in court. >> when that judge read the verdict of not guilty of both charges you know, it felt like the world was off my shoulders. >> gym teacher sean lanigan went on tv to tell his side. lanigan and his wife told a national audience they were shocked when a sixth grader from center ridge elementary accused him of inappropriately touching her. >> of grabbing her boob and her rear end. >> and that she made up the story, something a jury had agreed with. after his acquittal he began teaming phys ed elsewhere in fairfax county at south lakes high in reston. seven years after the trial and the not guilty verdict, there is trouble again for the popular phys ed teacher. according to an investigation by fairfax county public schools, which was obtained by the i-team. in this 2015 report, internal investigators looked into reports inside south lake's high that lanigan had
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15-year-old sophomore, that he was seen by colleagues holding hands within girls talking to one about a vibrator. calling another his girlfriend. tripping a student, using inappropriate language and talking to boys about a girl's body parts. the school district memo says lanigan denied these accusations but since fellow students or teachers corroborated them. it also says he admitted allowing students to access confidential files in his computer. according to state records in july 2016, lanigan quit. earlier this year, he formally completed the process of canceling his teaching license with the state acknowledging he did so in response to fairfax county's petition to revoke it based on the findings of the school district investigation but did not admit to the allegations. >> does it surprise you that his teaching license was just canceled? >> it surprises me it took so long. >> this former student says she first complained about lanigan back in the 190s when he waser
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>> it was mostly my shoulders, my arms or like huggy. >>sley says he made sexual comments. >> on your birthday, what did he say to you? >> that i should run the mile in my birthday suit. >> in fiss ed class. >> in class. >> in a washington post article five years ago, lanigan responded to that same accusation by saying he was joking that the girl had come to class without her gym uniform. >> sarah says her mother filed a complaint and pulled the girl from his class. >> it was something happening to all the girls. >> as a man, i'm glad he doesn't have a teaching license anymore. >> ray morrogh, fairfax county's top prosecutor says law enforcement was notified of the new accusations in 2015 but that the families involved did not pursue criminal charges. >> we knew that there were some incidents over there. i don't know if we had all the specs but i know the police where is in touch withom
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for an interview and instead issued a written statement which said in part, i have 18 years of experience teaching and i have never inappropriately touched a student. however after the trial when i returned to teaming, tension remained between the school system and me and after five years, although i still enjoy teaching, i decided to move on with my life and surrendered my teaching license. the files detailing what he was accused of in 2015 are kept private in the county and only by requesting these records through state officials via the freedom of information act did we learn about the new accusations. >> very playful. yeah. >> how so? >> like he would always like go up to girl girls, tickle them, pick them up, swing them around. >> even the young girl who faced off with him at trial in court who is now 19 says she never knew what happened to him after his acquittal. >> nobody told you he was teaching ai
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>> nobody told you he was back in front of kids? >> no. >> lanigan provided a written statement to news4 about his 2010 trial and the woman who talked to us saying there was absolutely no truth to it. and that the girl in making the accusations had the opportunity to testify and her testimony was found not at all credible. in fact, the jury took only 47 minutes to come back with their unanimous verdict of not guilty. so the why didn't any of his former students know he canceled his teaching licenses? we wanted to know and discovered virginia, maryland and d.c. trail many other states in what teachers. none of the three post the reasons or the orders describing the allegations that caused the rev indication like.other states does the including south carolina, pennsylvania and new jersey. no way for parents or colleagues to know why a former teacher got pulled. no way to guide if they should talk to their children whether they were victimized, too. d.c. post noes information about
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virginia and maryland post only names and the dates. >> but as you're about to see, that was going to change. quickly. >> calls for change after our news 4 i-team investigation. >> if there are teachers who may have committed some type of offense, we all need to know it. >> when we return, the information available to you right now to better protect your kids. fios is not cable. we're a 100% fiber optic network. and with the new fios gigabit connection... you get our fastest... internet ever. with download speeds up to 940 megs - 20 times faster than most people have. switch to fios gigabit connection with tv and phone for $79.99 a month online for the first year.
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for two years, all with a two-year agreement. and switching has never been easier. get out of your contract with up to a $500 credit to help cover your early termination fee. go to fiosgigabit.com
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how could a virginia teacher admit to assaulting a student, lose his job, but keep his license for years? our news4 i-team investigation found a local school district dropped the ball in his case neglecting to send the proper paperwork to the state till years later. but top state officials saw a report, took immediate action to help keet
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again. amid our news 4 i-team investigation, virginia's legislature debated a bill to prevent mistakes like the one we uncovered. under the old system, districts didn't have to report alleged misconduct to the state till the teacher was convicted in court, sometimes years later. the new bill would require districts notify state investigators within ten days of any suspected activity. >> there was a recent investigation by nbc4 in my area where they discovered there were four teachers who had actually admitted to sex you misconduct with students whose licenses weren't revoked. >> the bill passed quickly and governor terry mcauliffe is signed it into laud taking effect july 1st. >>? someone's license needs to be taken away, other jurisdictions is need to know. >> the governor says the virginia department of education has long had experts on the team to help revoke the licenses of teachers who's assault students. he says what the i-team found in fairfax, the failure to
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unacceptable. >> they decided not to let us know. the good news is that will not continue. we have investigators, all of us want to make sure our children are safe and if there are teacher who's may have committed some type of offense, we all need to know it. >> that's not all that changed in virginia. the state approved a budget boost for the department of education to help them hire another investigator to chase down future cases of misconduct. in maryland, state officials made a different change because of our reporting. for years, the state kept information about revoked licenses hidden from the public. but now maryland state superintendent of schools requires the posting online of teacher who's had their licenses stripped. including when and why. how do you know your child is being abused by a teacher? >> our son actually called us and final told us what was happening. >> when we come back, a local mother talks about the red flags that were there and what parents should be looking for.
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it can be a tough talk to have with your child. how do you as a parent know something might be wrong involving a teacher? the mother you're about to meet has a warning for you. signs she wishes she had picked up on sooner. >> you can definitely see there's a guard and there's a level of being careful that's there about trusting other people. >> five years had passed but this montgomery county mother says her teen is still dealing with the after plague the of being assaulted by a school instructor. we're not showing you her face to protect his identify? all of his grades had fallen significantly. he was irritable, he was crabby. he was distant. he was spending more time in his room. >> she was surprised to find out the inappropriate touching had been happening
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mo northwood high school. >> our son actually called us and finally told us what was happening. >> that open line of communication between a child and parent is crucial, says james who heads the health curriculum at frederick county public schools. >> if it's something you're not comfortable with, please tell someone snee says that dialogue needs to start happening at an early age as young as 4. >> even back in the kindergarten curriculum, we inject very early on the definition of private parts. and we don't go into any depth or detail but we remind students private partses are those parts covered by a bathing suit and the idea that those parts are not to be touched by anyone that's in a nonclinical setting or from an adult or a parent that is not helping you with some type of health situation. >> he says those conversations must continue as the child grows arming them with knowledge what kind of attention from an adult is appropriate versus
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they're helping you with a physical ailment that you have? are they touching you because they're giving you personal care? >> an empowering kids to follow their instincts and say no to any unwanted touch and tell someone even if the adult says it's secret. >> the bottom line is to be able to tell that trusted adult i'm not comfortable with this as a young adolescent, i'm saying no to this. it's not appropriate. i know it's not appropriate. i may need your help getting out of this. >> experts say get involved with your child's activities at school and know the adults they're interacting with on a daily basis. there's much more advice for parents on our website how to talk to your children about preventing is sexual abuse and how to approach your child if you suspect something might have happened. visit nbcwashington.com and click on investigations. the news 4 i-team want to hear from you if something's happening at your child's school we should look into, call our tip line at
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us at tips @news4 i-team.com or go to our website. we hope this special report helps you start those conversations with your child to keep them safe. for the entire news4 i-team, thanks for watching.
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