Open in App
  • Local
  • U.S.
  • Politics
  • Crime
  • Sports
  • Lifestyle
  • Education
  • Real Estate
  • Newsletter
  • ABC15 Arizona

    ABC15 takes a look at the investigation process of educator misconduct

    By Elenee Dao,

    2024-04-17
    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0CoB6H_0sTRRdJz00

    In the last month, three educators from the West Valley have been arrested, and accused of crimes against students in a sexual nature.

    On March 21 , Buckeye police arrested 23-year-old Alyssa Todd , who was a former teacher and coach at Odyssey Institute for Advanced and International Students High School. Police arrested Todd on charges of sexual conduct with a minor and sexual exploitation of a minor.

    Buckeye police said Todd’s arrest was the third of a female sexual predator with ties to local schools in less than a year in their area.

    Days later, on March 26, Glendale police arrested 53-year-old Estevan Carreon . Carreon, who was a finalist for a Teacher of the Year award and was an educator for about 20 years, is accused of secretly recording students while undressing.

    On April 10, Peoria police announced the arrest of 37-year-old Patrick Battillo , a Peoria High School basketball coach, volunteer in the schools and prominent sports fan who was also known as “Mr. ORNG.” Police arrested Battillo on charges related to child sex crimes. According to court documents, Battillo allegedly solicited several inappropriate photos and videos from underaged students in exchange for money.

    While a criminal investigation is being conducted by police into these suspects, their educator certification and discipline for that is usually handed by the Arizona State Board of Education.

    Sean Ross, the executive director of the Arizona State Board of Education, said they have 11 investigators, all of whom he says are retired law enforcement.

    Ross said any educator or staff member who steps into a public or charter school to work, must go through a background check and have a fingerprint clearance card.

    “Part of our team actually checks every single fingerprint clearance card that's applied for in education in Arizona,” Ross said.

    A potential school employee’s name is run through a national organization the board and other schools work with and flags any issues.

    “It checks against any law enforcement issues, any prior arrests,” Ross said.

    According to a report from the Arizona State Board of Education , more educators are being disciplined for misconduct. In 2023, 272 enforcement actions were taken. That grew from 172 in 2022 and 146 in 2021.

    The board’s investigation team had more than 1,500 cases last year, and allegations of sexual misconduct made up more than a third of that at 37%. Following that would be assault at 22%, substance abuse at 21%, fraud at 11%, and breach at 9%.

    According to the report, there were nearly 64,000 public school teachers including district and charter schools.

    The board said part of the reason for the increase is more staffing and improved efficiency for processing investigations.

    “The vast majority of teachers are amazing people who are doing this amazing work with kids and deserve more money and more praise and more support,” Ross continued. “There’s always that small, small, small percentage of bad actors and it’s our job to remove them from the classroom or prevent them from getting in the classroom so that our kids are safe.”

    Allegations of misconduct of any kind need to be reported to the Arizona State Board of Education in order for it to be investigated. Ross tells ABC15 that there are several ways they receive allegations: from schools, law enforcement, a statement of allegations from citizens who have concerns as well as flags coming up from fingerprint clearance cards.

    Educators facing accusations can go before a committee called the Professional Practice Advisory Committee. According to Ross, the committee is made up of volunteers and educators from across the state. It also includes an administrative law judge. This is part of the due process for educators whose certifications are at risk.

    Discipline can be negotiated depending on the allegations, and what is decided by the committee will then be passed on to the board for approval. Educators can ask to appeal decisions made.

    “Anything involving sexual impropriety, anything involving physical violence or really substance abuse, especially substance abuse on campus, we don't allow those to be negotiated,” Ross said.

    For any concerned parents, an educator’s certification can also be accessed through the Arizona Department of Education’s website called the Online Arizona Certification Information System, or OACIS for short.

    When searching for certified educators, it will also list any discipline that may be on file.

    ABC15 searched for suspect Estevan Carreon, however, the website showed that his certification is still valid. Ross said databases are updated once decisions are finalized by the State Board of Education.

    “Whenever we do have any sort of educator discipline issue, we upload those issues into this national database, just as other states do, and that way that educator, that discipline follows that educator,” he said.

    Though the website is not updated, Ross added that any educator with accusations of crimes that are sexual in nature or aggravated assault, the statutory authority to immediately remove them from a classroom as investigations continue.

    “A process like this, can be misapplied or misinterpreted of, ‘Oh, teachers are doing these things and they sort of will ascribe it to all teachers. That’s not the case,” Ross said. “Again, the majority of teachers are phenomenal people who hold up the world. They do the amazing work.”

    As high-profile cases are being investigated and go through their legal process, are background checks and fingerprint clearance cards enough? Or what else can be done? The Arizona State Board of Education said they couldn’t offer an opinion and operate solely based on state laws and regulations.

    Expand All
    YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
    Most Popular newsMost Popular
    Comments / 0
    Add a Comment

    Comments / 0