Sunday, June 04, 2006

Betrayed Trust

Privatization of public school programs creates its own problems, but does it get worse than this? On May 18, 2006, Daniel Alcazar, 27, a teacher’s aide for the Academy of Alternatives School, was arrested for having sex with a 15-year-old student. When Alcazar was arrested it became clear that Alcazar was in violation of his parole as well. In October 2005 Alcazar was released after more than ten years in jail for murder.

The Academy of Alternatives was a private school that contracted to several school districts in the region to conduct special education classes for students with special needs due to alcoholism, drug abuse and other social and academic problems -- the most vulnerable students in our schools.

Jay Scalise, Director of the Academy, discovered the sexual abuse (which he called “consensual”) during a regular meeting with the student, parents and staff. “I am horrified. It is just devastating,” said Scalise. “We all feel violated. It is a betrayal of the student, the population here, this entire school of people who trusted him.” Scalise seems to be most upset because Alcazar violated a policy that teachers are never to be alone with students.

If anyone violated the trust of the “entire school”, not to mention the community, it was Scalise. Scalise, aware of Alcazar’s past after speaking with his “mentor” at the Going Home program which helps ex-convicts re-enter society, failed to do an official background check.

“The background check is when I talked to the people at the Going Home program,” Scalise said. “They told me what his background was. Would a formal background check have shown anything different? I don't know.”

That’s right. Scalise didn’t know because he didn’t check. One thing that a real background check would have done would have been keeping the Academy in compliance with its contract with the Multnomah County Education District. Another would have been alerting state authorities who could have informed Mr. Scalise that it is not a good idea to give convicted murderers access to the most vulnerable children in our schools. Something that Scalise still doesn’t seem to get.

In August 1994 Daniel Alcazar, then 16, shot and killed Joan Ann Borisch, 42, an oncology nurse at Providence Hospital, while burglarizing her home in southeast Portland. Borisch’s body was discovered by her 18 year old son. She also left behind a 16 year old daughter.

Daniel Alcazar now faces up to ten years in jail for his latest crime, as well as the revocation of his parole. The Academy of Alternatives no longer has a license and will not be allowed to conduct classes until they perform required background checks on all current employees. Jay Scalise, I’m sure, is very sorry.


Blogger Magnolia said...

Why is it everyone knows about background checks, yet very few places seem to actually do them ?

8:33 PM  
Blogger Abbigail said...

I worked at the Academy of Alternatives for a year, and was there the day all our lives were changed forever. Students who were given so much hope and respect and in turn, learned how to socialize responsibly and take action with their education.
Mr. Scalise did everything in his power to ensure his school (with which was his pride and joy seeing these students develope into great intelligent adults who will hopefully go on to college and make a better life for themselves than perhaps what they were brought up with), was a safe learning environment.
I wish people would get their facts straight before jumping the gun on someone who was trying to give another human being a second chance... and yes, it turns out it wasn't deserved.

5:20 PM  

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