Excerpted from a CT Post story
The husband of a city school teacher says it is inconceivable to him that the school board would consider giving work to someone he said harassed his wife and several other district teachers with frightening late-night phone calls nearly a decade ago.
“After what we went through, it is just unconscionable that you would allow someone convicted of harassing teachers to be in the school district,” said David Adams, whose wife still teaches at Harding High School.
The city school board spent Monday evening debating just how much of a criminal background should make someone ineligible to run a program this fall for expelled students for the district.
Kevin Muhammad’s name was barely raised, but he was at the core of the controversy.
“What type of criminal action precludes employment and what is the time looked back upon?” school board member Chris Taylor pressed during the meeting. “Is any sentence in Connecticut a life sentence?”
“We have something called the ‘Me too’ movement going on in this country,” Board member Maria Pereira responded. “Anyone sexually harassing women, especially employees, staff and parents should not be entrusted with children.”
“Students can profit from someone who has a negative experience,” countered Board member Dennis Bradley. “It can produce a positive outcome in someone else’s life. Case-by-case basis is how we should look at it.”
Muhammad was convicted in 2012 of nine counts of second-degree harassment stemming from hundreds of late-night phone calls, many of a graphic sexual nature, to colleagues and acquaintances in New Haven. He was given a suspended sentence and two years probation.
As part of the investigation, New Haven police traced many phone numbers on his phone to Bridgeport educators that the women say were unsolicited and unwanted, according to the police report.
Muhammad now runs a program called Muck Mudd Inc. He approached the board in June about bidding for an alternative education program for special education students and classes for expelled students that have been run for years by The University School, a private contractor.
After the Monday meeting, Muhammad said he has made mistakes in the past but is not a harm to anyone and simply wants to help children.
Supporters who spoke to the board on his behalf included City Council Members Ernie Newton and Eneida Martinez.
Newton, himself a convicted felon, called Muhammad a brilliant educator who helps turn young people’s lives around.
Others, however, have contacted Hearst Connecticut Media, saying just the thought of Muhammad returning to the district is scary.
“There are women who still work in the district who are terrified,” said Adams.
He said his wife is among them.
Adams described buying his wife a gun for protection when she was getting repeated late-night phone calls that wouldn’t stop.
“She told me they were weird phone calls,” Adams said. “At first she thought it was kids or a wrong number. But they increased. Became sexual to the point we said, “This is a pervert making these calls.”
Most came when he wasn’t home, he said, adding it felt like they were being watched. Not until his arrest in 2010, did Adam’s say they realized Muhammad was involved. He had been an assistant principal at Harding and his wife’s supervisor.
A second Harding teacher, last week, also described getting numerous late night calls sometime before 2010 from someone who would make gurgling noises, breathe deeply or just stay silent. Most times, she said, she would hang up.
Both teachers asked that their names not be used. Adam’s wife said she finds it “creepy” that Muhammad would be considered for a position with the district in any capacity. The two said they have contacted their union to make sure he does not come into their school.
The request for proposals to run the expulsion program — which was sent back for revisions — will require applicants to submit to criminal background checks and fingerprinting.
“I know what a criminal background check is. I am a criminal,” Taylor said, asking that the description of rejectable offenses be made more specific.
Pereira said the standards should be the same — if not more stringent — for staff at district programs on or off school property where there will not be daily supervision.
She said she fears student records and phone numbers getting into the wrong hands and worried about the legal exposure the district would face by choosing to put students in the wrong environment.
“We will be held liable if something happens to that child,” Pereira said.
While Bradley said he has an open mind, what he heard during the meeting and from others is pretty horrific.
“I would like to hear what individuals have to say,” Bradley said. “My advocacy … was not for any particular individual but more about us as a broader society.”
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