From Sex to Assault: What's Up With America's Teachers?

Students subjected to assault, hazing and sex at the hands of their teachers.

June 3, 2009, 3:17 PM

June 4, 2009— -- For a 5-year-old Miami student who came home from school with a cut lip from being kicked in the face, the bully wasn't a playground menace -- it was, she alleges, her teacher.

The preschooler's offense? Using the restroom without permission during naptime.

Miami police arrested Head Start teacher Jean Dorvil, 56, on child abuse charges. Miami-Dade Schools Police Sgt. Ivan Silva told that detectives found during the course of their investigation that Dorvil had allegedly kicked two other students during the school year.

Dorvil's alleged acts were just one of many headlines this year that about teachers accused of dangerous or, at best, wildly inappropriate behavior inside the classroom and out.

Teachers this year have been accused of punching students and having sex with them, wrapping duct tape around their students and showing up drunk in the classroom.

Some incidents border on humorous – like the Ohio teacher who reportedly resigned after taking four female students to a male strip club. Others, like the Washington state teacher who was accused of sending a student's feces home in his backpack, appear to be just plain mean.

"I don't understand what some of these people are thinking," said Anthony David Adams, who has made a career out of exposing school wrongdoings by both teachers and students on the Web site

Adams, who jokingly calls himself the "Perez Hilton for education," told that he co-founded the site just over a year ago to shed a spotlight on "embarrassing, crazy situations."

While in reality schools are still one of the safest places for children to be and the vast majority of teachers are responsible and dedicated, "some teachers are just not thinking as well as they should," he said.

Francisco Negron, general counsel for the National School Board Association, said that while the group is aware that inappropriate behavior occasionally occurs in America's schools.

"There will always be the case, as in every part of society, where there are a few bad apples," he said. "Those bad apples are not representative of the profession as a whole."

'How Can Some Grown Man Kick a Child in the Face?'

In Miami, the mother of the girl who said she was kicked by her teacher, has hired a lawyer and plans to sue Dorvil and the county-run Head Start pre-school program her daughter attended at the Charles R. Drew Elementary School.

Cynthia Blue declined to speak to but her lawyer, Greg Durden, said that 5-year-old Mikel has nightmares and is terrified of returning to school.

Durden provided with a copy of the incident report filled out the day Mikel was allegedly kicked. Signed by Dorvil and an administrator, the report said Mikel was "agitated as usual" and that "apparently she bit or bumped her upper lip."

But Durden said they're lying and that Mikel came home from school that day with blood still on her shirt.

"They didn't even have the decency to clean her up," he said. "They didn't even give her first aid."

Durden said Mikel has not returned to school. He said he and his client are disheartened that Mikel -- an inner city child -- is now terrified of the place where she is supposed to get a foundation for a better life.

"How can some grown man kick a child in the face?" Durden said. "It's horrible."

Sgt. Silva said that, while in police custody, Dorvil admitted to kicking Mikel and the two other children. No one answered the phone at his home.

Adams, whose posts links to stories about inappropriate behaviors -- many of which are user-submitted, said his gut feeling is that most teachers are very passionate about their jobs and very good at them.

"Then you have this other batch of folks," he said. "I don't know why they're in education."

He pointed to an outdated public school system and low salaries as potential reasons why these bad teachers are being allowed into the schools. Adams said school boards should be focusing on bringing in teachers who want to foster creativity and not settle for just teaching to the standardized testing that has become so prevalent.

When the site first started, he said, they had to search for examples. Now, he said, the submissions come fast and furious. The site even won Time Magazine's Top 25 Blogs of 2009.

"We've kind of become numb to stuff," he said.

Feces Follies to an 8-Year-Old's Arrest

In Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported this week that a jury should decide whether a softball coach was fired illegally. The coach, Kelly Jo Cookson, maintains that her contract was not renewed because she is a lesbian.

But the school district claims they let her go after learning Cookson allegedly hazed her players in 2005 by making them walk through sheep feces during a team picnic.

According to the Bangor paper, Cookson's lawyer argued the hazing was only a pretext to the real reason her contract was not renewed -- her sexual orientation. A district official was quoted as saying Cookson had admitted to the hazing and was punished.

Feces was also a source of outrage in Washington state when, in April, a kindergarten student at Apple Valley School in Yakima was sent home from school with his own excrement in his backpack after he had an accident in the classroom.

The bagged poop came with a note reading "This little turd was on the floor of my room."

The boy's father, who only wanted to be identified by his first name, Jason, told ABC's Seattle affiliate KOMO that his son had a few accidents at school previously, but the teacher's response was unacceptable.

"Why would somebody do this?" Jason told KOMO. "It's disgusting!"

KOMO later reported that Jason's son was moved to a classroom in a different school for the remainder of the year and that the veteran teacher had been disciplined, but not suspended or fired.

The mother of an autistic Idaho girl also had harsh words for her daughter's school when 8-year-old Evelyn Towry was arrested and charged with battery following a scuffle with school officials over a sweater.

Spring Towry told in January that Evelyn, who was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at age 5, was denied entry to a school Christmas party unless she took off her favorite sweatshirt that had a picture of cow ears and a tail.

Towry said her daughter reacted violently when she was physically restrained from trying to attend the party.

"She said 'I was very scared,'" Towry said. "She told me she was being hurt."

Towry said she got to the school just in time to see Evelyn being led away by two police officers.

"She started screaming 'Mommy, I don't want to go! What are batteries? What are batteries?'" Towry said. "She didn't even know what she was arrested for."

While autism experts criticized school authorities after the incident, Dick Cvitanich, superintendent of the Lake Pend Oreille School District, which includes the school where Evelyn was a student, told that the school called police because "there was escalating behavior that resulted in what we perceived to be an assault on staff."

"It's definitely not typical," he said of the decision to call police on a child as young as Evelyn, "and not something we particularly want to do or like to do."

The charges against Evelyn were dropped shortly after her arrest.

'Hot for Teacher' Indeed

Adams said he sees a few trends in the stories he posts on The biggest? Teachers having sex with their students.

"Teachers in Florida love to date their students," he said. "I don't know what what's going on there."

While Mary Kay Letourneau -- from Washington State, not Florida -- made headlines in the 1990s for having sex with her 12-year-old sixth grade student and bearing his two children, she became the poster-woman for teacher-student sex.

She's now married to that student, now 26-year-old Vili Fualaau, and even cashed in on her notoriety last month by holding a "Hot for Teacher" night at a Seattle bar. She is no longer a teacher.

But she was far from the last teacher to teach more than just reading, writing and 'rithmetic.

Just recently Florida police arrested eighth-grade teacher Maria Hernandez, 32, for allegedly having an affair with her 15-year-old student -- a relationship that was reportedly condoned by the boy's mother, according to police.

Police made the arrest after Hernandez and the boy returned from a vacation together in Orlando, Fla. Police said Hernandez admitted to the affair. Hernandez, a teacher at Our Lady of Charity School in Hialeah, Fla., has been fired.

"The minute we found out, we took action. We let her go right away. We accepted her resignation right then and there," Principal Xenia Torres told WPLG-TV.

Hernandez's arrest came a month after an Arizona teacher got caught up in a deadly love triangle with two students.

According to police, 20-year-old former student Sixto Balbuena allegedly stabbed one of Tamara Hofmann's current students in the stomach after finding them undressed together in her home.

Balbuena, a Navy sailor who was on leave at the time, was charged with the murder of 18-year-old Samuel Valdivia.

Negron said he believes the public understands that the actions of these questionable teachers should not reflect on everyone.

"I think people know the difference. The parents love their kids' teachers," he said. "We know that really good teachers make the difference in a student's education."

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