Are Miami-Dade Schools a Hunting Ground and Refuge for Sexual Predators?

As Florida’s public school students are heading back to school, parents should be aware that Miami-Dade County Public Schools have been plagued by numerous sexual assault cases by teachers and administrators over the past five years, the most recent being the “Jason’s Girls” episode.

According to a legal complaint filed in federal court in Miami, Jason Meyers had molested numerous girls since 2004. When his principal at the time was told of a particular offense in 2008, the complaint alleges, he was transferred to another school. The complaint reads in part:

This action concerns the repeated sexual abuse and harassment of Plaintiff by her English and Creative Writing teacher, Jason Edward Meyers (“Meyers”), during Plaintiff’s junior and senior years at Miami Palmetto Senior High School (“Palmetto High School”), while she was 16 and 17 years old. Plaintiff is one of many underage female students that Meyers recruited, groomed, and exploited in a systematic fashion during his near decade-long tenure as a known sexual predator employed by Defendant. [Emphasis added]

A look at other recent related incidents is alarming:

  • Juan Cecchinelli, a school police officer at Miami Jackson Senior High School, resigned after sexually harassing a 15-year-old girl in early 2013; he was never charged. The victim sued Miami-Dade County Public Schools and a local news station for allegedly releasing internal documents that led to her identity being known.
  • Javier Cuenca, a former basketball coach at Hialeah Gardens Senior High School, was arrested in November 2014 on multiple sexual abuse charges; the article details offenses on school grounds.
  • Bresnniel Jansen Mones, a former teacher at South Dade Senior High School, was arrested for sexual battery, statutory rape and other related charges in January 2014. Per the article, Mones took the student’s virginity on his desk in his classroom. A resulting civil suit alleged that M-DCPS knew of a similar incident five years prior at the same school but took no action.
  • Don Clippenger, an assistant principal at Fienberg-Fisher K-8 Center in Miami Beach, was arrested in late January for downloading child pornography.
  • Bernardo Osorio, a teacher at Cutler Bay Senior High School, was arrested last February for engaging in sexual acts with a teenage boy between November 2015 through April 2016. Two of the offenses took place at school, the other in his car.
  • Napoleon Joseph, a former teacher and head football coach at Miami Edison High School, was arrested in March for having inappropriate relations with a 17-year-old girl. Per the article, the girl performed oral sex on him during two different occasions in his classroom in late 2016.
  • Darryl Ward, a security guard and athletic coach at Coral Reef Senior High School, and Alex Osuna, a marine science teacher and athletic coach at Palmetto Senior High School, were both fired in May for inappropriate relationships with students. As the students were legal adults, no criminal charges were filed.
  • Claudia Leary, who had been working with Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 23 years as an Education Support Specialist, attempted suicide in a vehicle with her ex-husband Dale Leary; she lived, he died. It is not clear what her role was. Dale Leary’s second wife, Marta San Jose, was an exchange student from Spain that both Dale and Claudia Leary sponsored when she was 16; upon becoming 18, Mr. Leary divorced Claudia and married Marta San Jose. The couple were charged with various sex offenses pertaining to San Jose’s 14-year-old sister- also a foreign exchange student.

Similar stories have happened across the country such as a case The New York Post reported on of “teacher of the year” Jared Anderson, a former Texas high school teacher, who hosted sex parties for teenage boys, including a “bros night” that featured a front-door sign urging them to get naked. Anderson has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

But there appears to be an unusual concentration in South Florida, particularly Miami-Dade County. Is this a by-product of an underlying culture within Miami-Dade County Public Schools?

Three years ago, I published a story about Christine Kirchner who was a language arts teacher and union steward at Coral Reef Senior High School, the same school that Darryl Ward worked at.  To note, though her actions were disturbing, they were not criminal as were those of the aforementioned people.

According to the April 4, 2014, Education Practices Commission of the State of Florida report:

  1. During the 2012-2013 school year, Respondent [Kirchner] discussed inappropriate topics, such as sex, virginity and masturbation, with her language arts class. The conversations made several students feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.
  2. During the 2012-2013 school year, during a lesson with her language arts class, Respondent [Kirchner] simulated having an orgasm. The simulation made several students feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.
  3. During the 2012-2013 school year, Respondent [Kirchner] gave massages to students of her language arts class. The massages made several students feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

Kirchner was found guilty of “gross immorality or an act involving moral turpitude” and that she violated “the Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession.” Kirchner was found to have violated Florida State Statute 1012.795, paragraphs (1)(d) and (1)(j), respectively.

What was the punishment given Kirchner?

The Florida Department of Education accepted a “Settlement Agreement”. The settlement agreement consisted of a letter of reprimand and placed Kirchner on two years’ probation. Kirchner accepted the Settlement Agreement.

Kirchner was returned to her classroom at Coral Reef Senior High School and retained her position on the Executive Board of the UTD.

What is Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the Florida Department of Education doing to prevent these incidents and to keep students safe?

Will it be business as usual at M-DCPS or will there be real change, such as foster working conditions and providing adequate compensation to attract high quality teachers as opposed to bad working conditions with low morale among teachers that attract sexual deviants?

When schools reward evil behaviors it only encourages others to commit evil acts against the most innocent, our public school children.

Which begs the question: Why are Florida’s public schools a hunting ground and refuge for sexual predators?

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