How do you spot a sexual predator teacher?
Worried parents are asking that unsettling question now that a North Kansas City middle school teacher has been arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a Smithville teen. And that young man likely is not the only victim.
James R. Green, 52, is accused of having a relationship with the teen in 2005. But Green also told investigators that he secretly filmed boys in locker rooms at several schools where he worked, according to court documents. He’s already being investigated for more recent interactions with another area teenager.
This is a teacher who has jumped from district to district, working in at least the North Kansas City and Blue Springs areas as a teacher and coach. The number of potential victims is deeply troubling.
The FBI set up a hotline this week, asking other victims to come forward.
The young man from Smithville, who is now 27, went to police earlier this month. It’s not uncommon for years to elapse in cases of sexual assault, for myriad emotional and psychological reasons.
So, must districts wait for a conviction to get a read on a problem teacher?
No. Last year, a new system was launched that flags any public school employee arrested and charged with a crime in a daily report to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which then alerts the district.
In addition, a 2016 investigation by the USA Today Network prompted other national reforms. The nonprofit National Association of State Directors of Teachers Education and Certification, or NASDTEC, is a resource for disciplinary information on teachers. It was created to derail teachers who lose their licenses in one state and then simply move, taking their issues elsewhere.
But, like all databases, the information is helpful only if the agencies responsible for reporting it do so — completely, accurately and in a timely manner. Districts must quit quietly engaging in what has become known as “passing the trash,” letting a teacher suspected of wrongdoing go without following through on difficult investigations or prosecutions.
The USA Today investigation prompted audits and increased the number of teachers being reported to NASDTEC for disciplinary reasons. But if officials don’t check the data available, or if districts are hesitant to report, the trail runs cold and a dangerous teacher may well find employment.
Pedophiles and other sexual predators often are wily, adept at wheedling their way into the lives of their victims. Vigilance and a consistent use of available background checks are among the best preventative measures to ensure student safety.