I-Team: Teacher Investigated for Sexual Abuse Received $70K
LAS VEGAS -- Clark County School District says they're going to change their hiring policies after giving a job to a teacher investigated for sexually abusing children in Los Angeles.
Melvyn Sprowson worked as a kindergarten teacher at Wengert Elementary School near Sahara Avenue and Nellis Boulevard until he was arrested on charges of kidnapping a Las Vegas teenage girl.
The I-Team has uncovered the confidential settlement papers which show the Los Angeles Unified School District paid Sprowson thousands of dollars to resign and agreed to keep his history secret.
Sprowson is now charged with kidnapping a 16-year-old runaway girl who stayed at his house after meeting him online. He's pleaded not guilty and remains in jail waiting for a trial.
A CCSD official explains how Sprowson was hired.
"I can't get into the details of his personnel file, but I can say we contacted the person he provided as a reference, both electronically and by phone, and that person did not disclose any previous investigations about Mr. Sprowson," said CCSD Chief of Staff Kirsten Searer.
Those previous investigations included allegations in Los Angeles that Sprowson touched a girl's genitals, forced a girl to touch him inappropriately, and showed fifth and sixth graders a porn video. But the Los Angeles district attorney did not prosecute. Sources tell the I-Team the elementary school girl at the center of the allegations took back her abuse claims.
The Los Angeles school board financially settled with the family of one of Sprowson's former students for claims of an unlawful sex act. The Los Angeles school district tried but failed to convince the state teacher credential board to revoke Sprowson's license.
"It is appalling that even when the LAUSD recommends revocation of credentials, as we did in this instance, a teacher is allowed to remain in front of students. Although law enforcement didn't move forward with a criminal case, we concluded beyond any doubt that this teacher shouldn't be in a classroom. We strongly recommended that the Commission on Teacher Credentialing revoke his credential, which, among others things, would have prevented his being hired by other districts," said Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy.
The reason Sprowson left Los Angeles did not come to light until CCSD Police recently searched his apartment following last month's arrest for alleged kidnapping and child abuse.
"During the course of our investigation, our school police did discover documents that indicate the L.A. school district entered into a confidential agreement with Mr. Sprowson in order to get him to resign from the school district," Searer said.
The district ended up paying Sprowson nearly $70,000 and promised that if anybody asked about his history, the district would say he "resigned for personal reasons."
Los Angeles district officials say nobody from Clark County called before hiring Sprowson last year. But the most Los Angeles district officials would have been able to reveal was that they kept Sprowson out of the classroom the previous three years and suspended him for 15 days.
Instead, sources tell the I-Team, Sprowson simply lied on his Clark County application. Sources add Sprowson gave the cell phone number of a friend who lied for him. Sprowson also lied on the questionnaire about ever being under investigation.
Clark County School District says the superintendent is meeting with his human resources directors to tighten up the hiring policy. They will likely require multiple references and verify those references by calling them at the school where they work rather than a cell phone number that's easier to fake.
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