SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — School districts are supposed to protect kids from predators, but far too often they don’t. Following repeated cases of abuse in local districts, CBS13 wanted to know who’s making sure school districts are doing their job to keep kids safe from predators.
Turns out, the answer may be no one.READ MORE: Stimulus Check Latest: When Could You See Another Economic Relief Payment?
Former after-school teacher Taylor Gholar was sentenced to three years in prison late last year for attempting to lure a 12-year-old student for sex.
Gholar was the second Sacramento after-school program teacher convicted in recent years and his arrest followed repeated cases of abuse by other teachers and staff in other local districts.
“We have yet to see any school district conduct an independent administrative investigation to find out how it was allowed to happen,” said attorney Rodger Dyer.
His firm has active cases against three local districts, including Elk Grove, which had seven staff arrests in under two years. The firm represents nine of Eric Echols’ victims. Echols was an Elk Grove Schools employee.
Echols was arrested on molestation charges in 2016 and was accused of molesting multiple children between the ages of 7 and 8 years old, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
Dyer’s firm also represents six of Joshua Vasquez’s victims. The city of Sacramento and the Sacramento City Unified School District reached a $12.5 million settlement with one of his victims. Dyer’s firm represents five more.
Almost as troubling as the abuse itself, in many cases, court records reveal that staff failed to report the abuse right away.
An Elk Grove yard supervisor allegedly waited 46 days to report Echols’ abuse, according to records.
“She got at least 10 different reports from these little girls of the abuse,” Dyer said.
In the Vasquez case, a parent testified that she warned the principal about Vasquez seven months before his arrest.
“[The principal] not only did nothing,” Dyer said. “She denied that the parent had come in.”READ MORE: Third Stimulus Check: Why Your Next Relief Payment May Not Be $1,400
The complaint alleges the principal told the parent, “Even if I had met with you, any unsubstantiated claims against my staff I destroy every year.”
Even though teachers are mandated reporters, Dyer says, in many cases, there is no penalty for the staff who fail to report abuse allegations.
“They don’t use that to educate the rest of the staff as to what they should have reported,” Dyer said.
CBS13 has learned there is no state or county “oversight of district investigations” and there is no agency tracking troubling trends or “multiple abuse cases” within a district. Both the state and county Departments of Education tell CBS13 that investigations are handled at the district level.
While schools must report certain cases to the commission on teacher credentialing, they only investigate abuse by credentialed teachers. Many, like Gholar, Vasquez and Echols, were un-credentialed aides.
And the state agency says it has “no jurisdiction over district investigations,” which many like Dyer say, don’t go far enough.
“It’s so easy to blame the sick predator, not themselves,” Dyer said. “It’s almost as if the school district feels like the problem’s over once the predator is arrested and gone as if there’s no future predators.“
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We reached out to dozens of local school districts requesting records of abuse investigations. Few responded.
The Elk Grove Unified School district, which had seven notable abuse cases in just a couple of years, tells CBS13 it “does not comment on pending litigation”.
The district added:
“Elk Grove Unified School District takes all matters related to sexual misconduct very seriously and is well aware of the past cases you referenced.MORE NEWS: Police Warn Of Fake Jewelry Scammer Roaming Woodland, Yolo County
EGUSD continues to augment, reinforce and improve: all staff, student and community awareness to prevent such abuse; reporting measures; employee trainings (including grooming); and the further prevention of sexual misconduct through District policy and administrative regulations.”