Monday, April 14, 2008

Insurance policy saves local school district further embarassment

An Akron woman has settled out of court with the Manchester Local Schools, even though she never attended a class there.

She was molested seven years ago by Randall Crane, her music teacher at Akron's Jennings Middle School. She was only 14 and in the 8th grade. She came forward to police four years later and came clean about the sexual relationship she'd had with her teacher. Crane pleaded guilty to sexual battery, lost his teaching license, and headed off to prison.

What she didn't know, at least until our story on WKYC-TV hit the air, was that Crane had been investigated for allegations of inappropriate behavior in the mid-90's when he worked at the Manchester Schools. But Manchester's leaders kept those allegations quiet and instead sent the Akron Schools a letter of recommendation that lead to Crane's employment with APS. The allegations at Manchester included charges that Crane was "too much like boyfriend/girlfriend" with female students, "too much touching" and being alone with girls with the office door locked.

Neither the victim nor the Manchester District will reveal the contents of the settlement, which was paid by Manchester's insurance company. To be honest, I don't need to know what the amount was, but rather just wanted to update the viewers that the district had been called out for failing to notify another district of a potential pedophile.

As a reporter, I can't help but wonder how many other times this has happened. How many times a district has known that an employee is "trouble" and possibly dangerous to others, but the leaders keep quiet hoping the "problem" will just leave and work elsewhere. How is that acceptable when kids are the targets?

Local school leaders tell me that often their hands are tied. They fear being sued by the teacher if they share allegations that haven't been proven. Still, one superintendent told me that school leaders need to find a way -- even an off-the-record phone call -- to warn others when a pedophile might be on the move.

I have covered more stories about teachers abusing students than I can even remember, and I hate that this minority of educators is giving a bad name to teachers as a profession. Most teachers I know are working hard for all of the right reasons .. and not for the money, dollars that don't come close to what they should make.

Still, I wish this case had gone to trial so that the public could have heard Manchester try and defend its failure to act. Try and justify investigating a teacher for possible misconduct and then a few weeks later writing a glowing letter of recommendation to a unsuspecting neighboring district.

I guess I just wanted Manchester's leaders to look this young woman in the eye and tell her why they failed to try and protect her from the sly fox who took her innocence.

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