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Parents demand answers after teacher arrest
Hunt Elementary parents still have questions for Plano ISD after an explosive parent meeting at the school ended prematurely Tuesday night.
The meeting was held in an effort to reach out to parents following the second allegation of sex abuse against a Hunt teacher since 2010. Todd Reich, a coach accused of inappropriately touching a 9-year-old female student in his office and in a classroom, was arrested at the Murphy school Oct. 16.
But parents who attended the meeting said few of their questions were answered, and it ended early after an impassioned parent raised his voice to demand Superintendent Richard Matkin tell parents how the district will prevent such incidents in the future.
Hunt Elementary parent Jigar Patel said he was hoping district officials would answer such questions, specifically those regarding what kind of process might be set up in light of the allegations.
A Girl Scouts leader, Patel said there are steps that can be taken to protect children, including making sure no adults are ever with a child without a second adult present.
"It was more like a damage control meeting, rather than a meeting about what we're going to do in the future," he said.
Lesley Range-Stanton, district spokeswoman, said a Plano police detective and a counselor from the Collin County Children's Advocacy Center took general questions about counseling. Questions specific to Plano ISD will be addressed with the assistance of the district's legal counsel.
Rashmi Shamarayar, another Hunt parent whose daughter is in kindergarten, said she expected Matkin to specifically address district procedure and issues regarding student safety. Chief among her concerns was the presence of doors on teacher offices and whether additional oversight is needed regarding teacher-student interaction.
"The point is, we've got to do something in the future, and that's what we wanted to hear," she said.
Having a counselor give parents tips on speaking to their children about safety and abuse was of little consolation to parents, Shamarayar said.
"Those are good pointers, but I already know how to talk to my kid," she said.
The charges against Reich stem from incidents of inappropriate touching that allegedly occurred in late 2009 and early 2010. Reich's arrest affidavit states he was instructed by the school's principal, who is no longer with the district, to stay away from the student, but the affidavit states Reich defied those orders.
The district has said "allegations" were made against the coach at the time of the alleged abuse, though no further detail has been offered. The district has said the allegations are not related to improper contact with any students.
"Superintendent Matkin told audience members (at the meeting) that Plano ISD will be engaging in a third party, independent review of all practices and polices related to the district's procedures for investigating and reporting," Range-Stanton said. "It was also important for him to convey to the audience that the information circulating in the media was not available when the Plano ISD investigative report was completed in 2010. There was not a reportable offense in the 2010 report."
The previous sex abuse case at the school occurred in May 2010, when kindergarten teacher Joseph Garbarini was arrested after being accused of playing out sexual fantasies involving diapers with kindergarten students. He was sentenced to 62 years in prison in August 2011.
Parent Bobby Stephens, whose daughter attends kindergarten at Hunt, did not attend the meeting, but his wife attended on his behalf. He said nothing is being done to protect students since solid doors are still in offices and surveillance cameras have still not been installed.
"I think it is a complete and total lack of authority in the school district and a lack of discipline," he said. "... How could [this] happen twice?
Written questions collected from the audience at the meeting will be answered on the district's website on an upcoming Q&A page, Range-Stanton said. Plano ISD counselors were scheduled to speak at the meeting, as well, but the meeting became "disruptive" and was adjourned prior to their participation, she said.
A follow-up meeting is planned but not yet scheduled, Range-Stanton said.