Kristi's Kids

Feb 13, 2013 11:59 PM

Kristi's Kids investigates sexual misconduct at area schools

UPDATE: Hezlitt has been sentenced to 6 years with a certain amount of time served since being arrested.

TUCSON - Preying upon students can be devastating with a lasting impact, especially when it's a person of trust who stands accused.

In the last 14 months, we've reported several alleged cases involving school employees and sexual conduct with minors.

The first case last year was Altar Valley wrestling coach Todd Hezlitt. Hezlitt was arrested in April on charges of exploitation. Then in June detectives say he fled with his alleged victim to Mexico. This case is still pending.

Also in April, there was school teacher Melissa Dalton from Ironwood Ridge High School. The Amphitheater district employee was indicted on several counts of sexual conduct with a minor. Her case is also pending.

Then in the Flowing Wells district, Christina Carbone was accused of having sex with an underage male who was not her student.

In November there was the dance instructor, who also worked at Saguaro High on contract with TUSD Charlie Luna was charged with sexual conduct with a minor.

All four of these cases were reported in 2012.

"I don't know that it's happening more often or whether it's just being reported more often," says John Fife, President of the Amphitheater Education Association.

There are two cases so far in 2013, both in the Amhpitheater Public Schools District.

Clarice Lee, a Teacher's Assistant, for special needs kids was indicted on 4 counts of sexual conduct with a minor and 1 count of exploitation of a minor. Police say some of the incidents were recorded on a cell phone.

Most recently, Barbara Bergquist a computer lab assistant at an elementary school, was found to have inappropriate interactions through Facebook and Skype.

"It's a tragedy," says Fife. "It's an absolute tragedy on a number of levels. It's a tragedy for the kids that are involved."

Kristi's Kids checked the discipline files from six major districts to see if there are more cases. Here is what we found:

Amphi schools: 2011/12-two incidents. 2012/13-two incidents. We told you about all of those.

Flowing Wells: One incident last year which was also reported in the news.

Marana: 2011/12-no incidents. 2012/13-incidents.
Sunnyside: "No such records exist. We do not have any records that fall within this parameter."

Vail: 2011/12-no incidents. 2012/13-no incidents.

TUSD: 2011/12--one reprimand. 2012/13-three reprimands.

TUSD referred us to their policy to show in what situations an employee would be terminated:

Conduct Prohibited Under Any Circumstance:
• Engaging in sexual activity, a romantic relationship, or dating of a student.
• Making any sexual advance - verbal, written, or physical - towards a student.
• Showing lewd, profane or pornographic materials (pictures or words) to a student.
• Engaging in talk containing sexual innuendo or sexual banter with students or telling sexual jokes.

TUSD also lists actions that would lead to an investigation.

Inappropriate actions and behaviors when there is no legitimate health or educational purpose:
• Engaging in peer-like behavior with students.
• Talking to the student about the student's personal problems and becoming the student's confidante instead of referring the student to the appropriate resource that may provide the appropriate support.
• Initiating or extending contact with students beyond the school day for personal purposes.
• Using email, text-messaging, My Space, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, or chat rooms or other websites to discuss personal topics or interests with students or posting provocative or inappropriate pictures or words on any website or other medium to which students may have access.
• Being overly affectionate or "touchy" with students.
• Favoring certain students by giving them gifts, money, special privileges, or not holding them to the same standards of behavior as other students.
• Discussing with a student the employee's personal problems that would normally be discussed with adults (e.g., marital problems).
• Allowing time alone with students at inappropriate places, such as at a teacher's or student's home, a personal vehicle, a bathroom, or behind closed doors.
• When alone in a room with a student, closing the door and not maintaining open and clear visibility through windows.
• Transporting a student in the employee's personal vehicle without prior express permission of the student's parent or school administrator in cases other than a health, safety, or emergency situation.
• Taking a student on a private outing, or meeting a student at a prearranged location.
• Inviting a student to the employee's home.
• Going to the student's home when the student's parent or a proper chaperone is not present.


To keep kids safe, Superintendent of Flowing Wells Nic Clement tells us it all begins with policy.

"Policies in the school districts are the rules--rules that we all need to follow. And they need to be clear. They need to be in writing. They need to be communicated to our employees."

And teachers are always supposed to be on the lookout.

"You are required by law to then report that to law enforcement or CPS within 24 hours of hearing about it," says John Fife.

If you suspect that a child is being abused click here to report the problem to CPS.
https://www.azdes.gov/child_protective_services/

Call Toll-Free Child Abuse Hotline 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445)

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