BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Over 200,000 teachers in New York State are entrusted with providing a safe environment for students, but the 7 News I-Team found some have abused that trust.
An I-Team analysis of records provided by the New York State Education Department through a Freedom of Information Law request found 59 educators’ licenses were suspended or revoked since 2020.
According to the education department, certification may be revoked for conviction of a serious crime, or if the teacher has committed an act which raises a reasonable question of the teacher’s character.
Ryan Travers, a former Western New York teacher certified in childhood education and students with disabilities, was stripped of his certification in November 2020, according to the state.
They allege Travers drank alcoholic beverages with students and played games involving alcoholic beverages. The state, “determined that a substantial question exists as to the certificate holder’s moral character.”
Otto Reinhardt, a longtime Buffalo Public Schools teacher, lost his certification in December 2021 after the state found he was convicted of multiple crimes.
In 2011, Reinhardt was convicted of assaulting a police officer and threatening to do bodily harm. In 2016, he was convicted of reckless driving, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and possession of narcotic equipment. He was further convicted of criminal contempt in 2017. And finally, in 2018, Reinhardt was convicted of stalking.
Payroll records indicate he was paid by BPS through 2017.
Julian Swartz, a former teacher downstate, allowed students to change grade and attendance records, made “inappropriate” and “tasteless” comments to middle school students, and stared at female students inappropriately, according to the state.
He told one or more middle school students that his mother would spank him and he liked it, told one student that her project “was busted,” and that, “that is not the only thing busted around here” and invited one or more students to see his imaginary friends in his van after school, according to state records.
One student told officials that Swartz visibly stared at her backside. It is further alleged that Swartz would purposely drop objects and watch female students pick them up. He also photoshopped the head of an assistant principal onto the body of a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, according to the state. Swartz’s certification was revoked in December 2021.
At least a dozen educators lost their certification after being accused of sex crimes. The records include the state’s investigation into Rochester-area principal Kirk Ashton, who sexually abused 21 young boys on school grounds.
Researchers have foundmany survivors of sexual misconduct don’t come forward until later in life.
“Whether they’re a teacher or some kind of employee at a school it is very common for a child predator to be in an environment where they have access to kids,” said attorney Stacey Benson.
Benson is an attorney with Jeff Anderson and Associates, advocating for survivors of child sexual abuse.
“Ashamed, they’re embarrassed. Oftentimes the abuser can be someone close to them in their family so they are worried about blowing up a family dynamic,” added Benson.
Over 100 Child Victims Act lawsuits were filed against Western New York teachers and schoolsbetween 2019 and 2021.
The law allowed those who were abused as children a look-back period to come forward and file civil lawsuits against their abusers or the institutions who enabled the abuse.
Negotiations are continuing in many of the CVA cases and some are beginning to resolve.
The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District settled 35 child sexual abuse lawsuits, made possible by the CVA, against teacher Arthur Werner last year.
Database of Suspended/Revoked Teaching Certificates in New York since 2020: