JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The arrest of a local school teacher has prompted the Duval County School District to take a closer look at its policies regarding its employees.
Chris Bacca was arrested last month on charges he sexually abused a young boy, a former student. Since his arrest, we have learned it wasn't the first time he had been accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a child. Back in 2009, an allegation he had stayed the night with a young boy was enough to remove him from a classroom at Long Branch Elementary. But because no criminal charges were ever filed, it wasn't enough to keep him from teaching at Windy Hill Elementary.
Now, the School District is making moves to prevent that from happening again. At a School Board workshop Tuesday, the focus was to tighten up everything from background checks to communications policies.
School Board member Tommy Hazouri said, "I don't know if today would resolve a Bacca situation, for example. But I certainly think it tightens up the potential of something like that from happening."
The district's HR department made several recommendations to change the way teachers who have run-in's with the law should be treated. A main focus was to open the lines of communications between the school district, DCF, and JSO.
"They would see specifically what we're doing, and we'd know what they were doing. And we'd know the status of this individual," said Hazouri.
One topic of discussion was that perhaps the school district didn't have all the information when Bacca was first investigated in 2009. DCF suggested he be removed from Long Branch Elementary School. Three months later, he was assigned to Windy Hill Elementary. According to Human Resources, Bacca was not qualified to teach at a higher grade level, and they were in no legal position to fire the fourth grade teacher since no criminal charges were brought against him.
Chief Human Resources Officer Sonita Young said, "What I will say is that I'm confident that if we had these processes in place, we would have been fully informed."
Bottom line is the Bacca case is unique. And it took his arrest to expose some weaknesses in the school district's policy. Now, the focus is on making that policy stronger and preventing another incident like this one from happening again.
"It seems to me like we're still ahead of the game as far as the rest of the school districts are concerned," said Hazouri. "We're very cognizant and it take cases like this to bring this to our attention, and that certainly did."
Right now, Bacca has been suspended without pay, pending termination. He does have the right to appeal. However, he hasn't yet done so.
He is currently being held in the Duval County Jail with no bond.