Nearly 350 public educators were arrested on child sex-related crimes in the U.S. last year, averaging to almost an arrest every day on crimes ranging from grooming to child porn to raping students, Fox News Digital has found.
A year-long analysis conducted by Fox News Digital revealed that from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 of 2022, at least 349 kindergarten through 12th-grade educators were arrested on child sex crimes.
The 349 educators included five principals, three assistant principals, 290 teachers, 26 substitute teachers and 25 teachers’ aides spanning nearly every state in the country.
At least 262 of the arrests, or 75%, involved alleged crimes against students.
The analysis looked at local news stories week by week featuring arrests of K-12 principals, assistant principals, teachers, substitute teachers and teachers’ aides on child sex-related crimes in public school districts across the country. Arrests that weren’t publicized were not counted in the analysis, meaning the true number may well be higher.
Only 54 of the alleged crimes, or less than 16%, did not involve students. It is not yet known whether the remaining 33 arrests involved alleged crimes against students.
Men also made up the vast majority of the arrests with nearly 82%.
“This isn’t surprising or new though it is hard to accept,” Erika Sanzi, director of outreach at Parents Defending Education, told Fox News Digital. “Since the dawn of time, sexual predators have found a way to embed themselves in child rich environments and schools are no exception. Smart phones and encrypted apps have increased access to young children and adolescents and while it is a tiny fraction of educators who engage in this predatory behavior, we must do a much better job protecting children while also respecting due process. It’s an icky topic but hiding from it can’t be an option.”
Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, said reporting on the subject is incomplete, and that the Department of Education should release a new report detailing the prevalence of child sex abuse in schools.
“These findings are likely lower bound estimates of the actual amount of sexual abuse occurring in public schools because the analysis only includes publicized arrests and cannot count undetected or unreported forms of abuse,” DeAngelis told Fox News Digital. “In fact, a 2004 report from the U.S. Department of Education estimated that around one in ten public school students will experience educator sexual misconduct by the time they graduate from high school. The Department of Education should update the report as soon as possible to shine a light on this abuse.”
The Education Department report, released nearly 20 years ago, claimed that nearly 9.6% of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.
Many of the arrests in Fox News Digital’s latest analysis involved especially heinous allegations.
Eugene Pratt, 57, a former principal, elementary school teacher and coach who taught at-risk youth in multiple Michigan public schools, was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct in August. He is accused of sexually assaulting at least 15 boys and young adult men during his education career spanning several decades.
Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson, whose office is investigating Pratt, told ClickOnDetroit in August that sexual predators often put themselves in a supervisory position so that they have easy access to victims.
“When you see positions that he held that involve being a principal, school administrator, counselor, GED coordinator, and even after he taught, where he was arrested last week out of New Paths, as a driver, as a transport officer,” Swanson said. “Individuals like Eugene Pratt put themselves in positions of authority over others in order to act on their prey and to find and identify vulnerable people.”
William Landon Smith, a 31-year-old former science teacher at Cape Fear High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, was charged with 27 counts of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, 28 counts of indecent liberties with a student, and one count of secretly using or installing a photographic imaging device to arouse or gratify sexual desire on March 18.
Smith is accused of inappropriately communicating with students via social media apps like Snapchat when he was a teacher at Cape Fear.
John M. Doty, a 35-year-old former biology teacher at Career Academy South Bend in Indiana, was charged with two counts of rape, one count of attempted rape and six counts of child seduction on Feb. 9.
Doty is accused of repeatedly raping a 16-year-old female student and threatening to kill her. He is scheduled to stand trial this month.
Anthony Mattei, 59, a middle-school teacher in the Allen Independent School District in Texas, was charged in August with two counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact. The district has since put Mattei on administrative leave and launched an investigation after it was revealed he had been permitted to return to the classroom following a separate investigation into misconduct allegations in April, Texas Scorecard reported.
In another startling development in August, four current and former Plymouth Public School educators in Connecticut were arrested in connection with an investigation into alleged child sex abuse by a fourth-grade teacher, 51-year-old James Eschert.
Four administrators at Plymouth Center School were charged with failure to report abuse, neglect or injury of a child or imminent risk of serious harm to a child after students allegedly complained about misconduct by Eschert and nothing was done. Two of the administrators have since resigned and retired and the other two are facing termination.
Eschert was arrested in January on five counts of risk of injury to a child and two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, Law & Crime reported.
Other arrests that were not included in Fox News Digital’s analysis, but are still worth mentioning due to the severity of the allegations and their proximity to children, include Richard Alexander Turner, a former Los Angeles high school gym trainer who is accused of sexually assaulting 10 female students. Turner was charged in September with six counts each of sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery, four counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person and one count each of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation, City News Service reported.
Kimberly Cruz-Romero, a former Utah middle school staff member, was arrested last month for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old male student and becoming pregnant by him. The student claimed he had sex with Cruz-Romero multiple times, including at school, and that she is a member of a gang that threatened him to keep quiet. She is charged with rape of a child, forcible sodomy and two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, Fox 13 reported.
Suspects are innocent until proven guilty and being charged with a crime does not mean they will be convicted. Moreover, there are an estimated 3.2 million public school teachers in the country, meaning the arrests compiled by Fox News Digital make up only 0.01%.
However, the arrests this year have already resulted in more than at least a dozen convictions.
Bonnie Rose Guess-Mazock, 36, a former Texas high school science teacher who was arrested in January 2022, was sentenced in October to 10 years behind bars after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a male student.
Kyle Brooks, 55, a former Ohio high school English teacher who was arrested in April, was sentenced in September to five years behind bars after pleading guilty to the sexual battery of a female student.
Daniel Norment, 41, a former Florida middle school math teacher who was arrested in May, was sentenced in September to three years in prison for having sex with a 16-year-old female student in a classroom closet. The victim has filed a lawsuit accusing the Palm Beach County School District of “allowing and enabling” the longtime teacher to “groom and then sexually assault her,” The Palm Beach Post reported.
Jesse Sturtz, 23, a former Wisconsin high school gym teacher who was arrested in February, was sentenced in October to six months in jail after being convicted of repeatedly sexually assaulting a 17-year-old female student. He later committed suicide just days before being required to report to jail, The Monroe Times reported.
The Fox News Digital analysis follows a U.S. Department of Education report in June, titled, “Study of State Policies to Prohibit Aiding and Abetting Sexual Misconduct in Schools,” which analyzed state policies prohibiting “passing the trash,” or allowing suspected sexual abusers to quietly leave their jobs to possibly offend again in a different school district.
A bipartisan provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was originally proposed by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, requires all states receiving federal education funding to enact laws prohibiting the practice of “passing the trash.”
The Education Department’s report, however, found that laws against the practice are varied across the states, and that while all states require prospective employers to conduct criminal background checks on educators, and most states — 46 — require fingerprinting, only 19 states require employers to request information from an applicant’s current and former employers.
Further, only 14 states require employers to check an applicant’s eligibility for employment or certification, and only 11 require applicants to disclose information regarding investigations or disciplinary actions related to sexual abuse or misconduct.
A shocking report released on Jan. 1 by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at Chicago Public Schools said the OIG’s Sexual Allegations Unit (SAU) received 447 allegations of adult-on-student sexual misconduct in 2022, ranging from inappropriate touching to sexual abuse. The report said that while that number “understandably causes concern within the District and impacted school communities, there is no indication that the frequency of these occurrences is higher within CPS than in other districts nationwide.”
“The SAU is not only the sole centralized K-12 investigative unit in the country to handle such a broad range of allegations, it is also the only entity that issues public reports on its complaint volume and outcomes, and summarizes its substantiated findings,” the report said. “As such, reliable statistics from other school districts are simply not available.”