Schools asked for answers after 2nd sex case
Updated On: Aug 09 2012 06:39:00 AM EDT
As the community learned in the case of Christopher Bacca -- the elementary school teacher in jail facing several sex charges involving a young child three years after allegations of similar abuse -- when there are accusations but no criminal wrongdoing is found, teachers are allowed to return to the classroom.
Channel 4 investigator Jennifer Waugh found a similar scenario occurred just over one year earlier with a teacher now awaiting sentencing for raping a student, which raises questions about school officials protecting Jacksonville school children from predators in the classroom.
Four years before Robert Luke was arrested for raping a 15-year-old student, he was a substitute teacher at Southside Middle School when a teenager told police he and Luke had sex several times.
Luke denied it, but the police report said he was living with the child in his Mandarin home. No criminal charges were filed, but Luke was deactivated as a substitute teacher. Waugh was told he failed to accept substitute teaching jobs.
Ten months later, Luke was hired by Duval County Public Schools as a full-time math teacher at Lake Shore Middle School. In April 2011, another student came forward and said Luke, his math tutor, molested him.
In May 2012, a jury found Luke guilty of sexual battery.
Sonita Young, the new chief of human resources for Duval County schools, said all teachers hired by the district go through a Level 2 background check.
"That included criminal background check(s), both locally and nationally, as well as the sex predator checklist that was completed at that time," Young said. "Based on results, there were no criminal disqualifying offenses that occurred at the time of hire."
Young was not the person who made the decision to hire Luke as a teacher, and is currently in the process of reviewing procedures at the request of the Duval County School Board.
"The district is complying with state law for background screening of employees, but I would also say to you that this board is concerned, and they have expressed their concern by mandating a very comprehensive review of our practices," Young said.
There was nothing in Luke's personnel file to even suggest the district knew about the prior allegation of sex abuse when it decided to hire him as a teacher. Substitute teachers do not work for the school district, but are employees of Kelly Services, a local employment agency.
"I do know that our processes are informal in terms of information sharing between other agencies," Young said. "I don't want to speculate as to whether the district had that information. I can only tell you that the information was not included in his personnel file."
Luke is expected to be sentenced later this year. Bacca is being held without bond pending his arraignment on multiple sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct charges.