Local News

Durham Public Schools Face Questions About Hiring Process

Posted May 23, 2003

— Durham public schools are facing some tough questions about their hiring process. Another school employee, the third in the last two months, is charged with a sex crime involving a child.

Mario Elam, 23, was arraigned Friday morning for statutory sexual offense and taking indecent liberties with a minor.

Police say the incident occurred Thursday when Elam, a Durham school bus driver, used his personal vehicle to pick up a 15-year-old boy after the student missed his bus to Lakeview School, a school for students with behavioral problems. According to the student, the sexual acts took place on Junction Road.

The school system has fired Elam, who did not have a prior criminal record.

It is the third sexually related incident involving a worker with Durham Public Schools in the past two months.

In April,

Chris Burleson

, the director of the before- and after-school programs at Hope Valley Elementary was charged with showing an 11-year-old a pornography slide show on the school computer. He was later fired by school officials.

Earlier this month,

Major Hall

, a volunteer at Burton Elementary was accused with molesting a 7-year-old. Administrators say the school did not do a proper background check. Had they followed proceedures, they would have found Hall was a registered sex offender.

School leaders point out that in the cases of Burleson and Elam, administrators did proper background checks and found no prior criminal behavior.

Durham is not the only county facing problems. Two Wake County teachers, one at Green Hope High School and one at Sanderson High, were recently arrested on sexual assault charges. In Cumberland County, authorities arrested a substitute teacher in February, charging him with raping a student.


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