Does North Carolina Still Get an “F” in Teacher Screenings?

North Carolina Teacher Troy Pickens Accused of More Sex Offenses and Rape of a child

Recently music teacher Troy Logan Pickens was charged with two counts of first-degree sex offense with a child and first-degree rape of a child, for actions that allegedly occurred in the fall of 2016 while Pickens was teaching at Durant Road Middle School in Wake County.

Criminal charges against Troy Logan Pickens in two counties

It was easy for law enforcement officers to find Pickens and serve him with a warrant because he was already in the Durham County jail awaiting trial on other sex-related charges involving a child. In December 2016 Pickens was charged with statutory rape of a 14-year-old. The bond for that charge was set at $500,000. The statutory rape allegedly occurred in early 2015, when Pickens was a music teacher at Neal Middle School in Durham.   

But the first allegations against Pickens came even earlier. Back in March 2015, Pickens was suspended with pay from the Durham County Schools, after he was accused of touching a middle school child inappropriately. It seems nothing was reported to the police after that allegation. Two days after he was suspended, Pickens was allowed to resign. Two years later, it looks like the criminal charges for which he has the $500,000 bond involve not that child, but a different victim.

Pickens hired in Wake County, after leaving Durham County Schools under a cloud

Here’s the thing we don’t understand:  after he was suspended in March 2015 in Durham County for inappropriate conduct with a student, in July 2015, Pickens was able to get another job in Wake County teaching middle school students.

The most recent charges stem from an alleged rape while Pickens was teaching in Wake County Schools. Pickens was employed by Wake County Schools from July 2015 until he resigned in January 2017. He was suspended in December 2016 when school officials learned of the criminal accusations against him, just a few days before his arrest. How did Pickens manage to move from Durham to Wake County and continue working for so long without getting caught?

How did North Carolina allow a teacher accused of inappropriate conduct to change schools?

In North Carolina, there is no master list of teachers who have been suspended. Wake County conducts background checks on all new hires, but when Pickens was hired there were no official charges against him. So that is one reason Wake County had no knowledge of accusations against him.

But didn’t anyone in Wake County make a phone call back to Durham to find out why Pickens left Neal Middle School before the academic year was over? Or to see if he should have been hired as a Wake County teacher? And why didn’t Pickens suspension get reported to the state? Pickens was employed with Wake County for over a year before his past became public.

These types of hiring practices led North Carolina to get an F in teacher screenings by USA Today. North Carolina fails when it comes to doing its homework on teachers before placing them in classrooms.

North Carolina fails when:

  • it comes to conducting background checks
  • sharing licensing information and disciplinary information about teachers publicly
  • reporting sanctions to a nationwide database.

How the Wake County victim could have been kept safe

If Wake County had taken action on what Durham County knew, the Durant Road Middle School incident would never have happened.

Some states currently report teacher suspensions along with other disciplinary information to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). This organization controls a master list of teachers who have disciplinary actions against them, everything from minor offenses to cases of physical and sexual abuse.

Maybe if North Carolina reported teacher suspensions to NASDTEC or even to some state reporting agency then more children would not get hurt at the hands of their teachers This is not the first time that the Wake County Schools have been found with an alleged sexual predator in its midst, and for some reason it sometimes seems to be the music, art, or drama teacher.

Our law firm is currently seeking witnesses with knowledge about Pickens’ alleged crimes. Please call or email us if you have any information.

Posted in Sexual Abuse and Harassment Tagged with: ,

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