4 teachers arrested; accused of having sex with a student
Local expert talks about warning signs, questions parents should ask
Last week, 23-year-old Danielle Reed was arrested for having sex with a minor. According to the police report, this English teacher at Atlantic Coast High School had sex with a student more than once.
The report says Reed even pretended to be the mother of a made-up friend of the student with whom she was having sex, to encourage the teenager's mother to allow him to spend the night at her home. Police said she met with the mother when she went to pick up the student for the sleep over.
In September, former teacher Michael Worrell (left) was charged with five counts of sexual battery and lewd and lascivious molestation involving three boys.
Worrell had taught at SP Livingston and Greenfield Elementary Schools as well as Paxon Middle School.
Last March, Leonard Hoffman (right), a teacher at Paxon Middle School, was arrested on two counts of having sex with a teenage girl.
Christopher Bacca (left), a teacher at Wendy Hill Elementary, was arrested in September on eight counts of sexual battery involving a child who was a friend of his family.
"What is true about the world of abusers, is that it's not all bad. They do many good things for people they abuse," said assistant state attorney Alan Mizrahi.
Mizrahi told Channel 4's Jennifer Waugh that one of the reasons abusers often go months, even years, without being caught is that they spend so much time with their victim that they do often help the child. For example, in the case of Robert Luke, who used to teach at Lake Shore Middle School, he created a bond so strong with his victim that the child thought Luke was the only person who loved him or cared for him.
"The boy was strugglin g so much with his family he was considering running away. His family was considering throwing him out of the house and Robert Luke became this child's life preserver," said Mizrahi. "All the grades went up; the child no longer had problems with some of the diseases he was struggling with. He helped the child in many ways and that made the parents think that this sexual abuser (Luke) was the best thing that ever happened to the kid."
It's why Mizrahi said parents need to ask lots of questions of their child, especially if they are spending a lot of time with their teacher.
Mizrahi is currently the division chief of sex crimes and child abuse for the State Attorney's office in Duval County. He has worked as a prosecutor in that unit for 13 years. He has heard many excuses from pedophiles about why they do what they do, and has also interviewed countless child victims.
Warning signs of abuse
Mizrahi said the majority of teacher sex abuse cases involve students between 12 and 17 years old. It's an age he said, when children are more independent and might be spending more time at school.
"A situation where a child is spending a significant amount of time with that teacher, either after-school activities or tutoring or a situation where the teacher is a coach as well at the school," explained Mizrahi about warning signs that should at least prompt questions from parents to their child.
Something else, Mizrahi said sex abusers often "groom" their victims.
"What we typically see in grooming is a situation where people become very attached and very close to children. They buy them gifts, take them to movies, to the mall things like that," described Mizrahi.
Questions to ask your child
"If you ask enough questions about what are you doing, where are you going, what things did you do, you can get to the bottom of a lot of situations," said Mizrahi.
He added it's hard for children to lie so if you ask the same kind of questions in a different way you can usually get the truth.
"Parents should never be too tired or too busy to talk to their child about who they are spending time with," explained Mizrahi.
He also warned, "sometimes when dealing with teenagers they can feel like the relationship is appropriate, but a parent educating their child that that kind of relationship is not appropriate is key."
Mizrahi said you should make it very clear to teenagers: "You are not allowed to have relationships with your teacher. It is wrong. It is illegal."
Mizrahi suggested you talk to other people at your child's school about anything out of the ordinary with your child and their teacher. If your child is being tutored, double check with the principal to make sure he/she is aware the teacher is tutoring your student.
Mizrahi recommended talking to other parents with children in your student's class. Are any of their children being tutored? Mizrahi said sex abusers typically target children who are struggling at home.
Maybe they are being raised by a distant relative or by someone who is not involved on a daily basis with the child's upbringing. Regardless, he recommended teaching your child about their body as soon as they become aware, what are good and bad touches. He said just as important, is telling them that it is not appropriate for them to see an adult's private areas, other than perhaps select family members.
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