School Board discusses teacher facing sex charges
Updated On: Jul 31 2012 08:05:44 PM EDT
The Duval County School Board met Tuesday morning to ask why a 26-year-old elementary school teacher accused of inappropriate contact with a student in 2009 was allowed back in the classroom.
Christopher Bacca, 26, was arrested one week ago on multiple sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct charges involving a child.
According to the police report, the Windy Hill Elementary School teacher showered with a boy younger than 12 more than once while the victim stayed the night at Bacca's home.
The boy told police that Bacca touched his private parts with his hand on more than one occasion, according to the police report. The boy also told police that Bacca performed oral sex on him more than once, according to the report.
Bacca remains in the Duval County jail without bail.
Bacca was Windy Hill's reigning Teacher of the Year. Bacca was also the co-chair of the youth committee at Riverside Presbyterian Church.
During a special School Board called to discuss a staff recommendation to suspend Bacca without pay pending termination his employment, board members questioned district policies about when teachers under investigation for inappropriate behavior can be returned to the classroom.
The board agreed there was a lack of communication between police, the Department of Children and Families and school district officials.
Because all of the parties involved in that decision three years ago have retired or resigned, district officials say they can only move forward, review their disciplinary procedures and make sure something like this doesn't happen again.
"Everybody's taking a piece of it," board chairwoman Betty Burney said. "The Duval County public school system is looking at it for one reason, JSO is looking at something for criminal and the other (DCF) is looking at it with regards to the child, so the three just need to be coordinated I think."
The school district's new human resources director was asked to review current procedures and make recommendations for improvement. She said that ultimately, Bacca was allowed to return to the classroom because no criminal charges were filed.
"Hindsight's 20-20, but just make sure we can move forward and make sure whatever we can learn from this is applied and we don't have situations like this in the future," Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals said.
The district is also revisiting its guidelines for principals to follow when interviewing and hiring employees.
"The information that took place in 2009, of course, never came to the board," Burney said. "It was a Step 2 reprimand based on information that was on file, based on information that had been received. Now that we have new information, the board is going to do what it has to do, and we're going to follow the superintendent's recommendation."
The board set Aug. 7 for a vote on Bacca's suspension without pay pending termination. On Aug. 21, the board will be introduced to revised procedures for handling such investigations.
Bacca was investigated three years prior to this arrest after the Department of Children and Families was told there was an inappropriate relationship between an elementary school teacher and a boy.
According to investigative reports of that incident, Bacca had a relationship with the boy and his mother. The child was reported to be spending the night at Bacca's home two to three times a week, sleeping in the same bed with Bacca and the boy's mother, according to the report.
In an initial interview with a DCF child protection investigator in October 2009, the boy said he had been sleeping with Bacca but denied any sexual contact, according to the report.
The DCF investigator and a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office detective agreed at that point that Bacca should be removed from the classroom at Long Branch Elementary School, where he was teaching fourth grade at the time, pending further investigation, according to the report.
Long Branch's principal told investigators Bacca was a "very talented young teacher who had been the school's Teacher of the Year last year," according to the report.
According to the report, when investigators interviewed Bacca in 2009, he was told of the complaint and "almost immediately became emotionally upset and tearful."
"He acknowledged that he had 'a special relationship' with (the boy) and his family," the report reads.
Bacca admitted that the boy and his mother had visited in his home and his mother's home, according to the report. Bacca also admitted that the boy spent the night at his home, but denied any sexual relationship with him, according to the report.
"He became defensive and said that he had no intention of ending his relationship with the child or family," the report reads.
Bacca was told that based on DCF's request, he was being removed from the classroom and assigned to the Consolidated Warehouse. Bacca's laptop and central processing unit were seized for examination.
A forensic analyst determined the laptop contained no inappropriate material. However, the CPU indicated the child victim had viewed several pornography sites between Aug. 11-13, according to the report. The report says those searches were conducted from Bacca's classroom during a teacher pre-planning period before the school year began.
The DCF investigation continued through the first week of December 2009, and investigators determined that the boy had been on at least one out-of-town trip with Bacca, according to the report. The boy confirmed he spent time alone with Bacca, spending nights with him and sleeping in the same bed, according to the report. The child denied any sexual contact, the report says.
The DCF investigator said the boy's mother was "never completely cooperative," and she believed the mother also allowed her middle-school-aged Exceptional Student Education student to visit Bacca alone.
DCF concluded with a finding of "an indication of some harm to the child -- that the teacher's behavior indicated 'grooming,' which could have resulted in harm to the child," according to the report. DCF recommended that Bacca be assigned to a less vulnerable student population.
"Because there was no evidence of a sexual relationship, no criminal case was filed," the report reads.
After review of witness statements, a verbal warning by the victim, Bacca's statements and his email to the principal, "the statements provide substantial evidence to sustain the charge of the exercise of poor judgment and violation of School Board Policy 6.84, which prohibits fraternization with students," the report's conclusion reads.
The report says Bacca received Step II Progressive Discipline for the offense.
However, school officials said that because there were no criminal charges, Bacca was eventually allowed back in the classroom.
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