An English teacher was placed on probation for three years for bringing a gun to school. He pleaded guilty to one count of carrying a loaded firearm into a school zone, which is a felony charge.
The teacher faces two venues: the Superior Court for the criminal offense of which he was convicted and the State for his teaching credential. This is standard practice for anyone in California who has a professional and/or occupational license, certificate, permit or teaching credential.
The dual jurisdiction is not the only consequences. In some cases, the Federal criminal statutes can be used and a case is brought in US District Court; in some cases there is also civil liability.
Commentary by Sam Spital, San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer and California State License Defense Attorney
Stories involving child abuse and harm are some of the most difficult to hear. Unfortunately, reports such as this one are prevalent in our everyday news.
According to this article by Fox 5 San Diego, a South Bay elementary school teacher is accused of possessing child pornography and using it to convince boys to expose themselves online. The 41-year-old was previously charged with molesting a former student. Today, he faces new charges which include allegations of a sex crime committed against a second boy. In addition to previous charges, the suspect now faces 12 counts of committing a lewd act on a child involving a second victim.
The first-grade teacher was initially arrested after agents with the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force searched his home. An investigation discovered the suspect posed as a girl on website called “MeetMe” and persuaded boys to expose themselves live via webcam.
Commentary by Attorney Sam Spital, Criminal Defense Lawyer:
“NBC Channel 7 digital news reported on February 12, 2013 that Ted Walker, a 41 year old teacher at Farb Middle School as well as a ten year employee of the San Diego Unified School District, faces felony charges of possession of a firearm and a knife with a locking blade on school grounds. Parents were surprised when they learned of the arrest after being notified by email, telephone and/or via the internet. An investigation is currently being conducted to determine how long Walker had been carrying a concealed weapon and whether he has a permit to do so. Other details were not revealed by law enforcement, including the motivation of the teacher and whether any others at the school carry any weapons for protection.
In recent months, there has been a redoubled awareness of the continued and escalating violence at schools; as a result the issue of administrators and teachers being able to obtain a concealed gun permit besides school police carrying a weapon has been reported throughout the country. On the one hand this will require adequate training of such individuals as well as establishing guidelines for storing of guns and/or weapons, while on the other hand legislators and pundits have opined gun-free zones make schools in general and the public in particular easy targets for those that are prone to crime and violence.”
“According to the UT San Diego news on February 7, 2013, a teacher at the New Haven Youth & Family Services in Vista, a residential and educational facility in the northern part of San Diego County that treats boys from about 8 to 17 who suffer from emotional and behavioral challenges, was charged with having sex with a 16 year old former student at the facility. The Court ordered 35 year old Kelly McKenzy Watson, to be incarcerated in County Jail for one year with probation for 3 years. Although the Judge did not require her to register as a sex offender (RSO), he did include in his Order that she not work with minors in the future.
The article revealed the teenager had not considered himself a victim, he cares for and did not want the soon to be mother of his child to go to jail, and he wants to be involved in the life of their child. The Judge noted that Watson would be released from jail early in consideration for the health of the unborn child, and if she successfully completes probation Watson will not serve the remainder of her jail sentence.
It is clear such a sexual relationship is inappropriate, inexcusable and illegal. This conduct cannot be condoned in society, particularly since teachers hold a position of trust. In reviewing many of these cases, however, there does not appear to have been deviant sexual behavior, and the individuals have often evinced a strong bond of love and affection. On September 5, 2012, the Commission on Teaching Credentials suspended Watson for this misconduct pursuant to Education Code section 44940.. There are many unintended consequences in this tragic story, and in particular the loss of a Special Education teacher who are otherwise much needed in the school system. Click this link for the licensing status of the former educator who received her initial teaching credential in 2004:
COMMENTARY BY SAN DIEGO CRIMINAL ATTORNEY SAM SPITAL:
“Internet sex crimes against children are escalating and parents need to be vigilant to avoid what has become a despicable and outrageous scourge in modern society. Clearly, the solution is not to remove computers from children. Even using available tools to restrict access on individual computers is not a full-proof solution because the internet can be accessed at countless places and in locations otherwise unknown by a parent. Open, regular and continuous communications between parents and children continues to be the most valuable approach advocated by most counselors, teachers and experts. The goal is not to cross the boundary to become a friend rather than a parent, but certainly to build and maintain love and respect, as well as establishing proper ethics and morals.
On December 6, 2012, a 41 year old first grade elementary school teacher in Chula Vista, a city in San Diego, was arrested on suspicion of 11 counts of lewd and lascivious acts on children under the age of 14. One of the charges is molesting a young boy. Apparently, the suspect posed as a 13 year old girl who used a web site named ‘MeetMe’ and has utilized other similar web sites to lure young boys to disrobe during webcam communications. The story contained no reference to possible exculpatory evidence (facts that would be favorable to the defense), remorse and/or mitigation, all of which may likely be presented by defense counsel on behalf of the suspect.
This has allegedly taken place while charges are already pending on possessing child pornography.Bail has been set for approximately $1 million.”
COMMENTARY BY CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY SAM SPITAL:
“On October 31 2012, Fox Local News reported a 32 year old ninth grade English teacher at a Chula Vista High School, a suburb of San Diego, was arrested for a several-year long sexual encounter in which he was charged with fourteen (14) counts of oral copulation upon a girl who was 16 at the time.
The teacher was on the list of top 10 finalists for Teacher of The Year award, and a School District spokesman said “it’s a big shock and surprise for us.’ This pattern of sexual abuse cannot be tolerated by any adult upon a child, and it is despicable for a person in a position of trust to cross the line and lose his respect for the student, himself and the profession.
Unfortunately, the teacher could not maintain his boundaries. At this time, no one has come forward as his lawyer to offer any information. However, the teacher’s career may forever be damaged, and his teaching credential revoked by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing through their disciplinary process if the facts are proven (http://www.ctc.ca.gov/pdf/2011-07-11-presentation.pdf). While not offered as a defense, the sexual relationship apparently involved a student that never had the defendant as a teacher.”
CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY SAM SPITAL
“The teacher has since been released from County Jail after the D.A. needed more information on the case and decided they would not file the sexual abuse charges. It is possible the alleged victim has given inconsistent statements &/or lacks substantial credibility to corroborate the offense. This is not uncommon and it underscores the importance of not reaching any conclusions by the mere fact someone has been arrested. We all know a person is innocent until proven guilty and in a criminal case the prosecution must prove its case beyond any reasonable doubt.
The District Attorney has up to one year to file a misdemeanor charge and two years for a felony.”
SAN DIEGO CRIMINAL LAWYER SAM SPITAL
Clearly, we must maintain the integrity of our legal system and the principle that “a person is innocent until proven guilty.”
However, it is unspeakable for a teacher to use her position of trust to engage in sexual relations with a student. Even more despicable is for a special education teacher to engage in such misconduct with a student with special needs. These students are particularly vulnerable.