Plano ISD Shows Exactly How Not to Handle A Kindergarten Sexual Abuse Case
Last week, Collin County Sheriff's deputies showed up at Hunt Elementary School in Murphy and hauled away 38-year-old PE teacher Todd Allen Reich. Reich, according to court documents, had sexually abused a female kindergartener, with his innocent-seeming back rubs in the open moving to his closed office, where he allegedly made the girl rub his genitals through his shorts and touched her breasts. If she told, he variously threatened to kill the girl, her family, and her dog.
Such cases can be minimized but, revolting as they may be, seem to be inevitable. Predators are skilled at working their way into positions of trust, and there's a limit to what school administrators or colleagues can predict or prevent. The best that can be hoped for sometimes is a quick and clear-headed response.
That's not what's happened at Hunt Elementary. Just last year, a former kindergarten teacher at the school, Joseph Garbarini, was convicted of fondling female students. The case that presumably should have made school officials take measures -- say, preventing teachers from being alone with a student in a closed office -- to prevent such abuse, but it evidently didn't. When word of possible inappropriate contact with a student reached the principal, he advised Reich to stay away from the girl, according to court documents. That doesn't seem to have happened, either.
All of this has parents at Hunt Elementary concerned, and understandably so. Plano ISD organized a town hall meeting last night, ostensibly to answer parents' questions and alleviate concerns. What came out of the meeting instead were headlines like "Parent Meeting Ends in Chaos."
There was chaos because the district handled the meeting in such a ham-fisted way as to be laughable were the subject not so serious.
"Everyone here demands answers to what are you doing right now," parent Ben Connor told Superintendent Richard Matkin, according to the Morning News.
But Matkin told parents the meeting wasn't being held to provide answers but "simply to tell you what our procedures were, to give you the opportunity to submit questions that we can answer through advisement." Parents could submit questions, but any answers would have to be reviewed by district attorneys and posted in writing on the Plano ISD website. They didn't want to interfere with the law enforcement investigation, you see.
When parents objected to this steaming pile of BS and began interrupting Matkin with questions, he abruptly ended the meeting which, of course, only enraged parents further. Why have a meeting where you plan to give no answers? Surely the district recognizes it has a responsibility to answer to parents, particularly given that allegations of sexual abuse have arisen twice in two years. As it is, parents have little reason to trust that Hunt Elementary will ensure their children's safety.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.