Updated: Feb 6
The State's current education laws contain loopholes allowing sexual predators to legally gain access and groom victims.
Teaching is a noble profession. Most educators choose the vocation to help shape young minds for the sake of the nation. Unfortunately, teaching is like any other field in that bad actors can (and do) take advantage of their position to exploit, and even destroy, the lives of trusting victims.
Since 2020, at least 35 North Carolina teachers have been arrested for allegedly committing sex crimes against children, according to multiple news reports.
Jeremy Wade Thompson, a Wake County school teacher coach and former athletic director was arrested in April 2020 for alleged inappropriate sexual conduct with five minors -- four students and one under 16-year-old -- that began in 2014. "What we have here is a huge pattern of over eight years of this defendant taking advantage of that position that everybody trusted him in," a Wake County prosecutor said at Thompson’s bail hearing.
James Faulkner, a former seventh-grade teacher at Beulaville Elementary School was charged with four counts of alleged indecent liberties with a child and four counts of indecent liberties with a student back in January of this year. Duplin County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Austin Obasohan said that Faulkner began working in the district in 2001 and had no prior disciplinary record during his employment.
Back in November 2021, substitute teacher Emily Durden, just 19 years old, was charged with two counts of alleged indecent liberties with a student, three counts of displaying harmful material to a minor, and two counts of second-degree sexual exploitation.
Richard Gene Martin, another substitute teacher, was accused last week of allegedly forcing a 13-year-old to take drugs and perform sexual acts. Martin allegedly faces a first-degree rape charge, two counts of indecent liberties with children by a school official, and statutory rape/sex offense of a person younger than 15 years of age.
Report after report details how these predators worked to weaken and eliminate the boundaries of their victims through a "grooming" process that rendered children emotionally - and physically vulnerable.
For a complete description of the grooming process, let's turn to Kenneth Lanning, a former supervisory special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and one of the leading experts in the country on the behavioral analysis of crimes against children (our comments in brackets):
The grooming usually consists of identifying preferred or acceptable child targets, gathering information about interests and vulnerabilities [e.g. sexual surveys], gaining access [in the classroom], filling emotional needs [e.g via private counseling], lowering inhibitions [e.g. through sexual discussions], and gaining and maintaining control [e.g. via bonding, challenges, peer pressure and sympathy].
The goal of the grooming is not always to eventually engage in sexual intercourse with a child. Some offenders are content with or even prefer sexual gratification from these less obvious types of behavior.
Here's the truth: North Carolina's public school system is filled with institutional flaws and cultural failures that allow school workers to harm children and families. The Parental Bill of Rights, Senate Bill 755, proposed last week by Republicans on the Senate Education Committee, contains the following short-term reforms intended to address some of the state's problems:
1. School officials must contact parents "promptly" if they suspect that a criminal offense has been committed against their child, provided that law enforcement has not already been notified. This means that instead of waiting for the results of an internal investigation into abuse (as so often happens), schools will be required to involve parents from the beginning.
The bill states that school officials should not perpetuate cultures of complicity or silence: whitewashing the harm caused by inappropriate responses, lack of staff skills in safeguarding unsafe physical environments, or the lack of education on consent and lack of procedural guidelines, A culture of silence and coverup allegedly shaped the negligent way the New Hanover school district responded to child sexual abuse in the district for over a decade. A recent lawsuit claims that 13 staff were fired or resigned over sexual abuse incidents over the past 15 years while school officials are accused of failing to report potential sexual abuse to law enforcement.
2. Schools will no longer be permitted to serve as the primary custodian of a child’s emotional wellbeing through administering invasive surveys (like Panorama and others) or provide in-school psychiatric services behind the backs of parents. The bill would outlaw secretive gender support plans (as we reported), which assign a "support adult" in school to work in secret isolation with children who indicate a desire to socially change their gender.
School officials will be required to encourage children to discuss well-being with his or her parent, and teachers may facilitate those discussions if needed. School boards and principals will not be allowed to prevent school personnel from informing parents about their children's "mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being," and they cannot develop policies, rules, or documents that encourage a child to withhold information about that child's health, emotional, or physical well-being from the parent.”
It would also ban in-school providers from providing psychiatric services to minors without written parental consent, except in an emergency. Violators could be fined $5,000.
3. Schools will be required to develop clear procedures to allow parents to inspect student surveys, which are administered on a passive opt-in basis.
Such queries, which ask children as young as eleven what age they first had sex, how many sexual partners they've had, and how many hours they are at home alone could provide predators with valuable information for targeting victims. Allowing schools to assess a child's private thoughts and emotions, and then tending to those needs in a secret relationship behind parents' backs, is a risky practice.
4. School officials will be required to avoid situations where they will be discussing sexual politics in the classroom - a practice that invades children’s personal boundaries and disrupts the learning environment.
The bill states that instruction on "sexual orientation or gender identity" should not take place in grades K-3. This is currently being done in Pre-K classes with the use of flashcards depicting pregnant men, and in Kindergarten by using a "Gingerbread Person" caricature teaching 5-year-olds about sexual attraction between gay and straight people.
According to the American Bar Association, discussing sexually explicit information under the guise of education is a key grooming behavior that should serve as a red flag for law enforcement. Therefore the bill does not go far enough. K-12 students should not be subjected to presentations on sex and sexuality outside the context of units on reproduction in high school-level health or biology classes.
Senate Bill 755 allows a parent to bring a civil suit against any government entity or official that violates the Parents’ Bill of Rights in North Carolina law - and schools would have to pay the court costs. The proposal allows parents to view all written or electronic records from their child's school - including counseling records - and requires that schools notify parents before a child can change their name or pronouns in school records.
Passage of Senate Bill 755 will send a signal to the public that government officials, like principals, teachers, and school counselors who harm children are not above the law.
Before Senate bill 755 becomes law, it must pass the full Senate and House where Republicans hold majorities. It will then land on Governor Roy Cooper's desk. Keeping schools safe from predators and keeping sexual politics out of the classroom is top of mind of every parent, and any lawmaker who votes against this bill will surely risk a defeat during the next elections.
LIST OF ALLEGED ACCUSED OFFENDERS PICTURED
Aug, 2020 - Elizabeth Lee Wright, North Iredell High School, Statesville
June 2020 - Jessica Daughtry, James Kenan High School, Duplin
June 2020- Angelica Castro Favela, James Kenan High School, Duplin
June 2020- Jeremy Wade Thompson, Middle Creek High School, Carry
August 2020 - Edward Hall, Seventy-First High School, Cumberland County
October 2020 - Keith Gerald Woodard, III, Charles B. Aycock High School, Wayne County
November 2020 - Jason Carpintero, Salisbury High School
February 2021 - Paula Louise Stinson, Thales, Rolesville
June 2020 - Richard Collins, North Stanly High
January 2021 - John Woody, North Iredell High School, Statesville
October 2021 - Cameron Burgess, SRO at Rocky Mount Preparatory
October 2021 - James Stehlin Jr., Princeton Middle School, Johnston County
May 2022 - Richard Gene Martin, substitute Guilford County Schools
May 2022 - Robert Dennis Burnette III, Madison High School, Yancey County
May 2022 - Thomas Strahan, West Mecklenburg High School, Charlotte
May 2022 - Olivia Lois Ortz, Wilmington High School
September 2021 - Connor Jordan Earp, Northern Guilford high school
November 2021 - Emily Durden, Crest Middle School, Shelby
February 2022 - Jeremy D. Flock, Carolina International School, Concord
April 2022 - Stephen J. Bera, New Bridge Middle School, Onslow County
September 2021 - Delfio Lusgardo Delgado, Hickory High School
October 2021- Santos Alejandro Valladares, Weddington High School
March 2020 - Carly Erin Kaczmarek, Walkertown Middle School, Forsyth County
March 2022 - William Landon Smith, Cape Fear High School, Cumberland County
April 2022 - Britton Scott Goodwin, Scotland High School
May 2021 - Tammy Moran, Cape Fear Christian Academy, Fayetteville
April 2022 - Shawn C. Hicks, Harnett Central Middle School
September 2021 - Dean Lakey, Short Pump Middle School, Henrico County
December 2021 - Solomon Reynolds, Graham High School, Greensboro
January 2022 - James Faulkner, Beulaville Elementary School, Duplin County
May 2020 - Matthew Jonathan Rickard, Page High School, Raleigh
March 2022 - Joshua Landon Jenkins, Heritage Middle School, Wake County
January 2020 - Ethan Andrew Grose, West Rowan Middle School
January 2020 - Justin Andrew Avery, West Eowan middle school
January 2020- Terrell Williams, Northeast Middle School in Charlotte
January 2020 - Peter Franks, Roland-Grise Middle School, New Hanover
February 2020 - Whitney Fite Baker, Turning Point Academy, Shelby
March 2020 - Lisa Rothwell,Stuart Cramer High School, Belmont
February 2022 - Drayton Gilyard, Hopewell High School, Huntersville