Teacher's prior charge should have been red flag in Tucson - Tucson News Now

Teacher's prior charge should have been red flag in Tucson

Joseph Massey. (Source: Pima County Attorney's Office) Joseph Massey. (Source: Pima County Attorney's Office)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

How did a man, previously charged and acquitted of inappropriate conduct with a student in Tucson, manage to still work in a classroom before being convicted on similar charges?

Tucson News Now set out to answer that question.

Joseph Massey was recently convicted for sexual misconduct with students at Southern Arizona Community Academy in November 2015. State records show his teaching certification expired in January of 2015.

A school district must perform a background check with the state and "documented, good faith efforts to contact previous employers to obtain information and recommendations that may be relevant to a person's fitness for employment", according to Arizona Revised Statutes.

That same statute claims districts must notify Arizona Department of Public Safety anytime a teacher is charged with a crime outlined in the ARS, which includes crimes like the one Massey faced in 2009, when he was a teacher at Utterback Middle School in the Tucson Unified School District.

A jury acquitted Massey in 2010, but the charge itself would still be a red flag, according to Stefan Swiat, Public Information Officer with Arizona Department of Education.

He said any details about a specific teacher's case could not be shared publicly until it appears before the State Board of Education, but generally speaking, he said districts are notified about red flags before hiring teachers.

The state, however, cannot stop a district from hiring anyone.

Any questions to Principal Darlene Whitmore were answered with a "no comment".

State records show that Massey's certification was never suspended, surrendered or revoked between May 2007 and January 2015.

Any complaints about Southern Arizona Community Academy filed with the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools did not appear to involve Massey, according to ASBCS Executive Director Ashley Berg.

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