A General Accountability Office (GAO) investigation obtained exclusively by ABC News has found that people with histories of sexual misconduct are still getting hired by school systems across the country, despite state laws designed to prevent it from happening. The report, requested by Rep. George Miller, D-CA, highlights 15 cases in which teachers or coaches were hired, or kept on school staffs, despite evidence they were sexual predators. In 6 of those cases, these offenders used their school positions to sexually abuse more children.
In one case, the victim was a young, disabled boy. In another, the victim was a girl in 6th grade.
"I think this report tells us that we should be very concerned," Miller told ABC's Pierre Thomas. "We should construct or at least ask the states to construct a system that can be as foolproof as possible. The current system clearly has huge gaps in it. … And that is just not acceptable."
The GAO found that the predators beat the criminal and background checks that are in place in many states, in a variety of ways. In some cases, schools did not perform the required criminal history checks. And even when checks were performed, they sometimes were limited to in-state criminal records, and did not reveal the teaching candidate had a criminal record in another state.
But the biggest problem may be what Miller calls "passing the trash." These were cases GAO found in which school systems just let suspected sexual offenders resign, and even wrote them glowing letters of recommendation, so they could find teaching jobs elsewhere.
"My first reaction is just one of anger," Miller said, "because I spent my entire life working with young children … and then to see that in fact with knowledge, school official passed a convicted child abuser and molester on to another school system by covering up that information in the record. It's outrageous."
The GAO pointed to the example of one teacher who was the subject of whispers and suspicions of sexual abuse throughout his career, but no school system ever took action against him. The teacher, whose identity has been confirmed by ABC News as Kevin Ricks, had twice been asked to leave previous teaching positions – in fact, he had been banned from campus by one school.
Last year, Ricks was teaching at Osbourn High School in Manassas, Va., when a mother went to school officials to complain that Ricks was sending inappropriate messages to her son on Facebook. The school did nothing. Later in the school year, he was arrested at the school and admitted to sexually molesting a 16-year-old student at the school. He has since been charged federally in a string of alleged sex abuses that date back to at least 1979
The GAO report also cited these cases:
A Connecticut teacher was convicted in 2008 for sexually assaulting multiple underage girls. This came after he had been compelled to resign two previous teaching jobs for having child porn on his school computer and making inappropriate advances on female students. Yet both schools gave him good recommendations, so he was able to continue abusing young girls.