Is Your Child Safe? Part II: When Policies Fail

Fort Worth Teacher Charged With Indecency With a Child

by FWTX Editorial Staff

(Caution: This story contains graphic sexual content.)

Chad Hawkins turned himself into authorities yesterday, weeks after our January story, Is Your Child Safe?, hit newsstands. A warrant had been issued for his arrest citing indecency and fondling of one of his female students.

Hawkins was hired as a substitute teacher at Arlington Heights High School in January 2012. In August he was hired as a full-time history teacher and head basketball coach for the girls’ basketball team.

Hawkins resigned last Friday, Jan. 18, after an investigation began into an inappropriate relationship he had with a 16-year-old student from his history class. On Jan. 16, a Westworth Village police officer was patrolling for vehicle break-ins and found Hawkins in his car with the student near L.A. Fitness in Westworth Village.

A Tarrant County affadavit says the windows were “steamed up,” and Hawkins stepped out and adjusted his clothes. The student was found with her shirt unbuttoned and said that Hawkins had touched and kissed her breasts and that she touched his penis. Two days later a warrant was issued for Hawkins’ arrest.

The student claimed that Hawkins was giving her a ride home. When the student’s grandmother came to pick her up, she said she didn’t know where her granddaughter had been.

We asked Clint Bond, a FWISD spokesperson, if it was acceptable according to policy for a teacher to give a student a ride home. He referred us to a document he sent outlining the FWISD Employees Standards of Conduct: “The employee will be prohibited from soliciting or engaging in sexual conduct or a romantic relationship with a student." 

The teen was taken to Cook Children’s Medical Center for an exam that evening, and while in the hospital she received a call from a man who identified himself as “Thomas.” He asked to speak with the student and wanted to return her computer tablet that she had left in his car earlier that evening. The student’s sister had answered and responded that she would have her sister call him back, but she did not do so.

Before resigning last week, Hawkins had used the name Thomas Durdan on a fake Facebook account. His only Facebook friend was the 16-year-old student from his class. The messages were highly inappropriate and occasionally sent during school hours.

A Facebook message sent from “Durdan” on Jan. 10 said: “I want you to walk into my class next period and sit right on my lap ha!” The student responded: “if you say so I’ll do it.” Durdan’s response: “My girl.” Two days later, Durdan sent: “I can’t wait to feel what it’s like to be inside of you.”

More than 90 messages between Durdan and the student revealed the teacher giving the student answers to tests and many more highly sexual comments.

Other policies outlined in FWISD’s Employee Standard of Conduct that were disregarded by Hawkins include:

  • The educator shall refrain from inappropriate communication with a student or minor, including, but not limited to, electronic communication such as cell phone, text messaging, e-mail, instant messaging, blogging, or other social network communication.
  • The employee is prohibited from knowingly communicating with students through a personal social network page; the employee must create a separate professional network page for the purpose of communicating with students. The employee must enable the administration and parents to access the employee’s professional page.
  • The employee will not communicate directly with any student between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

After news reports came out today, many of Hawkins’ students are speaking out about what has happened in online commenting forums. These comments indicate that Hawkins was able to deceive other students into thinking he was trustworthy.

o “im sorry but I have this man for a class and he is the only teacher who has made me a better person and that I still look up to him no matter what.”

o  this is one of the best teachers ive ever had he has brung me closer to god and made me a better person, so please don’t say anything unless you know the guy!”

o “Don’t ever say you’re sorry for something you believe in. He probably needs a lot of support right now.”

o it just seems like some kids these days, well…remember that movie Crush with Alicia Silverstone? We are not too far from that, in today’s society.”

o “omg that was my teacher omg imma miss him I still respect him as a person but it did go down after this”

GOOD INTENTIONS AREN’T ENOUGH

Last month local attorneys Kimberlee Norris and Gregory Love reported on the serious topic of what local schools are doing to protect our children from sexual abuse. As a service to our readers, the magazine sent a questionnaire to all local public and private schools asking them about their child protection policies. Results from those that responded can be found on this website.

Among those who responded to the survey was Fort Worth ISD. The school’s answers seem to suggest that it has all the correct policies in place in order to protect its students.

Love and Norris, who specialize in child sexual abuse litigation and prevention, created the survey we sent to all local public and private schools. Aside from being lawyers, Love and Norris are also co-founders of MinistrySafe, an entity dedicated to sexual abuse awareness and prevention.

The survey asked some of the following questions:

  • “Do you have a system in place to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse at school?”
  • “Does your system depend on a criminal background check of potential employees?”
  • “In your school’s hiring process, do you utilize a screening system or process?”
  • “Does your school provide sexual abuse awareness training to all staff members and faculty?”

FWISD willingly participated. Answers provided suggest that it has a comprehensive system in place to protect its children. FWISD claims to do criminal background checks on all employees and volunteers before being hired and on an on-going basis. The school’s hiring process purportedly includes questions related to prevention of sexual abuse and questions meant to identify high-risk responses.

FWISD also claims to provide sexual abuse awareness training to all staff members and faculty. When asked in the survey, “Is training completed before the employee is working with children?” FWISD responded, “Yes.”

According to Bond however, Hawkins’ supervisor does not have a certificate of completion for the sexual abuse awareness training. Bond says, “Mr. Hawkins was hired as a full-time teacher in August of 2012. As the year has yet to conclude, employees are still eligible to access and complete the course. Mr. Hawkins supervisor does not have a certificate of completion, but that doesn’t mean Mr. Hawkins hadn’t begun or even completed the course.”

According to Tarrant County criminal court records, Hawkins had legal problems in the past. He had been arrested for driving while intoxicated and terroristic threat in January 2002 in Euless.

We asked Bond about how Hawkins could have been hired with previous criminal charges. Bond responded, “He didn’t have a history of sexual assault to my knowledge.”

In the survey response to the question: Does your system depend on a criminal background check of potential employees? FWISD answered: “DPS criminal history checks are performed continuously on certified employees hired after 2008. Non-certified employees are checked annually.”

Norris says, "Typically, Texas public schools are doing less than private schools in the realm of sexual abuse prevention. In general, this is because it's harder to sue a public school than a private school, due to governmental immunities. The facts in this case show classic 'grooming behaviors' of an abuser, and these types of behaviors should be explained and illustrated in an effective sexual abuse awareness training. When school staff members and volunteers are able to understand and recognize 'grooming behaviors,' the risk of sexual abuse in school is lowered. Where screening is concerned, criminal background checks alone are not an effective preventative. This is because less than 10 percent of sexual predators encounter the criminal justice system. Schools need a system of protection to address the risk of sexual abuse, and few ISDs have a comprehensive system in place."

The details of this case are similar to so many incidents involving inappropriate relationships between teachers and students. In 2011 the Episcopal School of Dallas was in headlines because a history teacher from the school had sex with a 17-year-old student. Their main communication was texting.

When we spoke to Charla Aldous, the attorney who defended the plaintiff in the ESD case, she shared her thoughts on policies protecting students from this type of situation. “I firmly believe it’s in the best interest of schools to say that there will be no texting between a teacher and a student. That just skews boundaries.”

Just last Friday, it was reported that a Tarrant County grand jury has indicted a former teacher at Haltom High School who is accused of having sex with four of her students. According to police, Tonya Flink resigned from her position as a computer technology teacher at Haltom High in August 2011, shortly before police began their initial investigation.

This month, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Michael Pricer, 35, a former choir director at Denton Guyer High School, was in jail last Wednesday, January 16, facing a charge for improper relationship with a student. The student, a 17-year-old girl, was in one of Pricer’s choir classes, according to the article.

In August 2012, former Kennedale High School teacher Brittni Colleps was convicted of 16 felony counts of having sex with student athletes, including a group encounter that was videotaped. Colleps, a married mother of three, was sentenced to five years in prison, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She said in an interview on ABC’s 20/20 that she believed she didn’t deserve prison because the five students with whom she had a sexual relationship were 18-years or older.

FWISD claims to have a school safety system in place. The school purports to require mandatory sexual abuse awareness training for all staff members and volunteers, they claim to have a screening process including a criminal background check system, and they have tailored policies and procedures.

Speaking from her experience in dealing with the ESD trial, Aldous says, “A lot of the policies and procedures they had in place, but if you don't enforce them it doesn't help at all."

Click HERE To View Your Child's School Protection Policies