Local News

Investigation of Bragg substitute teacher widens

Posted March 16, 2012 5:10 p.m. EDT
Updated March 16, 2012 7:08 p.m. EDT

— Army and FBI investigators are looking into allegations that a former substitute teacher at Fort Bragg schools inappropriately touched as many as 14 students at eight schools on post over a 15-month period, authorities said Friday.

Authorities said two cases are currently under investigation, but no charges have been filed. The unidentified teacher has been banned from post.

The Army held two town hall-style meetings Friday to discuss the situation with parents, but many parents expressed frustration later over the lack of information they've received and the delay in getting it out.

"We didn’t get a lot of questions answered that we wanted answered. We wanted more information," Carmen Ortiz said. "I’m not left with a clear answer or clear understanding of what actually took place and whether or not I should be concerned."

"How are we supposed to know if any of our kids have been touched? There’s no way for us to know who the teacher was or what classroom (he was) teaching in," Araceli Rodriguez said.

Garrison Commander Col. Stephen Sicinski said the teacher's name and a list of classes he taught cannot be released without jeopardizing the investigation.

"We’ve been as transparent as we could (and have) given as much information to parents as we can in writing and social media," Sicinski said.

Authorities said the teacher was suspended in November after a Pope Elementary School parent reported that his child had been touched inappropriately.

Sicinski blamed a breakdown in communication for the delay in notifying parents about the allegations.

The Army's Department of Social Work didn't find out about the situation until a few weeks ago, he said, and it began the process of contacting parents at that point.

"A lot of people are outraged, wondering why the ball was dropped," Ortiz said. "We could have had a better reaction time."

All substitute teachers at Fort Bragg schools undergo rigorous background checks, officials said, noting that the accused teacher had great references and no criminal history.

The school system plans to conduct "safe touch" education for children later this spring, and Sicinski encouraged parents to discuss the differences between "good touch" and "bad touch" with their children.

Any parent who suspects his or her child might have been a victim of inappropriate touching at school is asked to call the Fort Bragg Help Line at 910-907-6680.