Washington Post tracks an alleged child molester through a long teaching career that includes stints at Atlanta private schools

The Washington Post has a heck of a story on an alleged serial child molester who managed to stay in education for more than 30 years, including a stint teaching at some private schools in Atlanta.

Take a look at the remarkable reporting that the Post did on Kevin Ricks, a talented teacher whose affability and devotion to his students masked what the newspaper says could be decades of abuse of teenage boys.

A beloved teacher who once taught in private schools here, Kevin Ricks now faces a charge of sexual battery of one teenager.

A beloved teacher who once taught in private schools here, Kevin Ricks now faces a charge of sexual battery in Virginia of one teenager.

As to the Georgia connection, the story states:  Ricks received his diploma from UNC in 1983, and he taught at a private school in Norfolk for a year. He also taught for a year at a private school in North Carolina, and in the mid-1980s, he taught at private schools in the Atlanta area, at least once serving as the dorm master for a boys’ boarding school, according to his résumé. Because private schools do not always require teaching certificates or teaching experience, Ricks was able to get the jobs without applying for a license. Georgia education officials, for example, have no record of him ever applying for or receiving a license there.

Here is a very short excerpt from the lengthy piece. If you have time, read it all as it’s riveting stuff: (Also, there is a sidebar to the story that addresses how Ricks evaded detection for so long. It is shorter.) I am surprised that none of the safeguards in place seemed to work in this case.

By Josh White, Blaine Harden and Jennifer Buske

Kevin Ricks was a gregarious, well-traveled English teacher at Osbourn High School, a Walt Whitman devotee who was so popular that a photo of him in class was chosen to fill the opening page of the yearbook. A writer and photographer himself, Ricks would walk the halls of the Manassas school with a leather-bound journal of his musings tucked in his bag, next to his laptop computer.

What teachers, parents, students and even his wife didn’t know was that his journals contained decades of dark secrets, a running handwritten commentary of Ricks’s world of obsession, infatuation, pursuit, sexual abuse and international child exploitation.

They didn’t know about his library of homemade pornographic videos and explicit photographs capturing his tequila-soaked sex acts with teenage boys he had handpicked. They didn’t know about the makeshift shrine boxes containing mementos of the episodes, including sex toys, soiled tissues and hair trimmings.

Even some of the victims didn’t know they were victims.

A four-month Washington Post investigation of Ricks’s career as a teacher, tutor, foreign exchange host and camp counselor has revealed a pattern of abuse that dates to at least 1978 and has left a trail of victims spanning the globe. But despite the abuse, Ricks moved from one teaching job to the next over nearly 30 years, navigating the nation’s public and private school systems undetected, evading traps designed to catch him.

In some cases, school officials and foreign exchange companies knew of or suspected Ricks’s inappropriate behavior and simply let him go, leaving the next employer with no idea what was coming.

His case underscores the difficulties that educators and parents face when they only suspect abuse but can’t prove it, and how reluctant even the most suspicious and well-meaning people can be in coming forward with allegations. It shows how someone can for decades wear a mask of trusted role model while using that powerful position to lure unsuspecting boys.

Interviews with six of his victims or their families in Asia, Europe and the United States — along with several others who think they or their children were being groomed as victims — tell a story of a teacher who believed he was falling passionately in love with his students and the foreigners he brought into the country. They said he spent months infiltrating their lives, their families and their youth groups. He plied them with expensive gifts, trips, event tickets, attention and ultimately loads of alcohol.

When the boys were in a drunken stupor or asleep, Ricks would molest them, using a camcorder and camera to capture the graphic, secret sex acts, according to victims and law enforcement officials.

Police and prosecutors in Virginia and Maryland said their investigations have turned up alarming evidence of predation along with a hoard of child pornography and matching journal entries describing the abuse. A Manassas police detective and FBI agents are scouring his computers and journals and have been looking across three continents for evidence.

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EnoughAlready

July 26th, 2010
7:12 am

How many more are there in our mist? Probably a lot more than we want to believe. Look at all the teachers who have been charged with having relationships with students.

high school teacher

July 26th, 2010
7:14 am

Could we for once focus on the positive aspects of education, please? There are a few…

Rod

July 26th, 2010
7:20 am

high school teacher – you need a realistic view. Putting your head in the sand doesn’t help to stop this abuse. Turn our heads on this and it will just continue to spiral out of control. It needs to be stopped. Now.

Investigate

July 26th, 2010
7:32 am

Sounds like “high school teacher” is afraid of someone finding out about what he’s been doing!

high school teacher

July 26th, 2010
7:42 am

Actually, I am a she, and not all teachers are child molesters… just like not all cops are criminals…

Rod, are you assuming that this man represents a majority of educators, and not a minority? There is a difference between reality and cynicism.

sharecropper

July 26th, 2010
7:48 am

“Focus on the positive aspects of education …?” Here’s a positive aspect for you: he probably didn’t do your kid, whom you entrusted to the school systems and their administrators. You hope, anyway.

ScienceTeacher671

July 26th, 2010
7:50 am

Interesting quote: “Because private schools do not always require teaching certificates or teaching experience, Ricks was able to get the jobs without applying for a license. Georgia education officials, for example, have no record of him ever applying for or receiving a license there.”

Do private school require the criminal background checks required by public schools? And would those have caught Ricks in any case? Are these incidents more or less likely to be hushed up by private schools, especially the more elite ones?

Investigate

July 26th, 2010
7:57 am

high school teacher – Stop trying to read ridiculous assumptions into things. OBVIOUSLY I think this man represents a minority of educators, not a majority.

But too many people have your view – to just ignore the problem. Ignoring a problem that destroys peoples lives (innocent children) is unrealistic, stupid and does a disservice to the children.

There a pedophiles in all jobs – fact. However, it’s especially dangerous when that job has the monster in direct contact with children and helps him/her to earn their trust and do what they say.

Don’t close your eyes and ignore the problem, help get rid of it. If you see another teacher that raises suspicions to you – REPORT YOUR CONCERNS TO THE PRINCIPAL, don’t just bury your head in the sand.

And your comment about there are a “few” positive aspects of education is right on the money. However, these days (especially in Georgia) there are more negative aspects of education. As you know, one negative aspect can cloud ten positive ones.

redweather

July 26th, 2010
8:02 am

The point of this article, high school teacher, is how long Ricks was able to evade detection. The safeguards put in place to protect students and school systems from people like Ricks didn’t work. That is news worth knowing.

Oh Well

July 26th, 2010
8:05 am

Absolutely scary – and the fact that the systems that let him go (on strong suspicions) is almost criminal…

Dr NO

July 26th, 2010
8:10 am

Sorry teach…when the rubber meets the road all cops are ciminals. You just dont know any better.

With regard to our latest child molesting incident…this fellow shouldve been caught years ago. Just by looking at him one can see there is something a miss.

He just has that greasy, slimey look about himself and that left eye adds to the crazy factor. Yes…Mr Ricks is no doubt guilty. But more of the issue would be how many of you are guilty for looking the other way. HMM?

Concerned 1

July 26th, 2010
8:11 am

One of my former principals always gave a speech to the faculty at the beginning of the school year about abuse. He basically said keep your hands off the kids. Unfortunately, we knew who the coaches were who were dismissed for inappropriate behavior. We read about them in the paper later or saw them on the news.

One predator abused young men in South Georgia. He moved to Atlanta and was apprehended here. One of those abused on South Georgia was a close relative who adopted a different lifestyle and later died of AIDS. This is quite serious. Educators and parents beware. Most of us are regular upstanding people; there are only a few rotten eggs.

Mikey D

July 26th, 2010
9:04 am

All it takes to stop abuse by predators like this guy is for ONE victim to tell someone. That’s why we have programs like “Good Touch, Bad Touch” to help children understand that not everyone is a good person, and that trusted adults must be informed if something like this happens.

Unfortunately, some on the lunatic fringe of the right have taken the opportunity to speak out against these programs, referring to them as “sex ed” for kindergarteners and actively working to eliminate them.

Old School

July 26th, 2010
9:10 am

@Dr. NO, looks can be and are often misleading. Unless I am mistaken, Georgia law requires those in education who know this kind of activity is going on (or strongly suspect it) to report it to the PSC. I’m not so sure if third or fourth-hand knowledge is sufficient for the PSC to launch an investigation but it would be up to them to decide. That being said, there are folks who will circle the wagons to protect either the individual or the reputation of the school or system. (Kids do this quite often to protect their buddies when mischief has been done.)

Ole Guy

July 26th, 2010
9:25 am

HS Teach, I believe you may be one of the (hopefully) few educators in Georgia who live in an “Alice in Wonderland” world. Life would be great if all we had to do is pat ourselves on the back for wonderful, excellent, superlative achievements. Unfortunately, as much as we would like to focus exclusively on the good stuff, we simply cannot afford the luxury of ignoring life’s potholes.

If your kid comes home with a straight-A report card, you can afford the luxury of raining praise. However, if that “almost straight-A” report has a lil’ole measly F, you’re gonna urge your offspring to concentrate on the weakness.

Your desire to “focus on the positive aspects of education”, of which I am sure there are many, would be akin to the reporter asking “Other then that, Mrs Lincoln, did you enjoy the play”!

Teach, is your head buried in the sand of idealism so much so that you are willing to ignore the very fact that just one of your professional brethren has managed, for 30 years, to escape detection of these most-heinous crimes? Teach, with all respect to your professional standing in the ed community, if the only reaction you have to this occurance is “oh well…let’s focus on the good stuff”, you just may be in the wrong field. If I were in your shoes, I’d be incensed that my governing body would be so ineffectual as to permit this sort of thing to go on for such a period of time. You, Teach, exemplify the very problem which permeats the very fabric of your profession. You all live in a NIMBY world…as long as your own little back yard is in order, you don’t really care about the disarray within the professional back yards of your peers. Perhaps this is why the public, as interested non-educators, continues to read of one complaint after another, passionately issued by teachers throughout the region, yet no one, within the teacher corps, is willing to step up to the plate of resolution.

catlady

July 26th, 2010
9:36 am

On the other hand, I have seen, it my career, 4 teachers accused by students of inappropriate sexual behavior towards them that eventually recanted. Yet the teachers’ careers were over. And they never received any repayment for their lives being ruined. Just an, “Oh. Nevermind.”

Do I believe there is teacher misconduct? Sure. Do I believe there are people teaching who should not be? Absolutely.Am I supportive of teachers who prey on kids? No. But when a student gets mad (as happened in all of the cases I have personally seen) and accuses the teacher, the teacher should have some very significant financial recourse with lots of publicity toward the student, his/her parents, and the school system if they reacted in a way that did not both protect the student AND the teacher.

Do I think there are more predators in teaching than, say, in the ministry? Nope. Nor in any other field that has lots of child-contact. Look at the incidence rate of parents/step-parents who are accused of this.

Teacher

July 26th, 2010
9:55 am

While I’m certainly glad I know about this situation, I am going to side with high school teacher. Look, I’ve been following this blog daily since April and it seems to have one major focus: bash education. On top of that, so few of the posts actually have to do with what’s going on inside a real Georgia classroom. Believe me, there is much more going on in schools than the politics of education and other topics discussed in this blog.

Maureen, I would like to see you visit some classrooms at different levels this year and report what you see happening. If you like, you can come to my class. The public needs to hear about the rule and not always the exceptions.

Voice of Reason

July 26th, 2010
9:55 am

Thank you catlady and high school teacher for providing some rationality here! It’s scary to hear someone say that you can tell someone’s guilty based on their mugshot, or any aspect of their appearance. Many teachers are wrongly accused, just not this one. One of my objections was the slam the article took at private schools–Ricks worked in public AND private schools, yet the article says that he was able to get jobs “without a license” at the private ones. Well, he also worked places where he needed a license. A license is no protection against mental illness, which Mr. Ricks clearly has.

Nemesis

July 26th, 2010
9:59 am

When I was growing up, Teachers who were sexual predators (but we called them dirty old men back then in the dark ages) were common knowledge with the students And a lot of the parents. They were able to keep their jobs because of Tenure you could not get rid of a bad teacher with dynamite. So kids were warned. be careful around Mr.X. He likes young girls. Or Don’t be alone with Mr. Y. He got so and so “in trouble” and she had to go away to have the baby. Or Mr.Z always moves the girls with the short skirts in the front two rows so he can look up their dresses. Because of the times you did not hear about them going after the boys. I am sure it happened but it was hidden more as the teacher might not get fired but he might wake up with some private parts shot off.
So I think it was common knowledge this predator was molesting the boys. At least by the students And even by the other teachers and administrations of these schools. Instead of turning him in to the authorities they chose to quietly ask him to leave,gave him a recommendation so he could teach somewhere else (wouldn’t want the bad publicity, now would we? We might lose paying students and get a lawsuit filed against us If it ever came out we hired him .) I have seen it time , and time, and time again. Some schools and administrators are more concerned with protecting the school and their own behinds that protecting the students.

Lynx

July 26th, 2010
10:14 am

One point of the story is that predators are likeable, smooth, and extremely good at picking out vulnerable kids and family situations. In many cases, Ricks brought international students into his home (he was married, but wife must have been in total denial – not interviewed for the story), held sleepovers, took kids on cross-country tours and into his family home.

Why did school officials not notice or check his lack of credentials? The superintendent of his last school district noted it is very difficult to fire teachers on the basis of accusations ONCE THEY ARE HIRED unless criminal charges are brought. The police reported they had no reason to file a charge because there was no evidence of anything other than overly solicitous behavior. Remember, many of the victims didn’t even know they were abused. The parents in the story who suspected inappropriate conduct confronted Mr. Ricks, but some remained friends with him.

What could have stopped this? Administrators/HR staff who check EVERY applicant’s credentials and enforce state laws and district rules about certification. Honesty in relating the reasons for dismissals on termination paperwork. Parents or guardians who get to know their child’s teachers, even at the high school level. Kids who pay attention to their “ick” response and let their parents or trusted adults know when they have a sense of something being wrong in the relationship. Authority figures (principals, parents, counselors, etc.) who don’t ignore reports from kids. Discreet investigations can reveal that other kids were approached but rebuffed the predator, or experienced similar inappopriate advances, but either didn’t recognize them as advances or didn’t know the behavior was inappropriate. Designing a “Good touch, bad touch” education program for high school students wouldn’t be a bad idea. Rules that forbid one-on-one student-teacher activities outside school would at least give the administrators something to hang their hats on if they need to enforce against a high creep factor behavior that doesn’t cross into criminal activity.

All that said, remember that the huge majority of teachers, including males, are dedicated to insuring the education, safety, and success of our kids. Know your teacher, know your kid, and know what is going on between them at school and away (maybe take a day off and chaperone extracurricular activities) – that is the best protection.

catlady

July 26th, 2010
10:25 am

“Even some of the victims didn’t know they were victims.” Someone please explain this. I am not in denial, just apparently dumb as a rock.

Maureen Downey

July 26th, 2010
10:45 am

@Catlady, I think that refers to the teens who were passed out from alcohol that the man gave them and did not realize that they were being photographed or touched, but the details were contained in the man’s journals and photo collections.
Maureen

Lynx

July 26th, 2010
10:57 am

@ Catlady. The entire story mentions several boys who were contacted by the Washington Post for interviews after their pictures and names showed up in Ricks’ collections. They remembered getting drunk on tequila, but nothing else, and didn’t even realize they had been victimized until the Post contacted them. Apparently, much of the criminal activity was not invasive enough for there to be noticeable signs of it when the victims regained consciousness.

Disconcerting to say the least

July 26th, 2010
11:13 am

I find it very disheartening to learn that many private schools don’t require any type of teaching credentials nor do they require background checks with fingerprints. That is very scary!

redweather

July 26th, 2010
12:03 pm

It has always been easier to get hired at most private schools than it is to get hired by a public school.

Proud Black Man

July 26th, 2010
12:16 pm

Nothing new here. White skin privilege has enabled many a crooked Caucasian.

Mikey D

July 26th, 2010
12:55 pm

@PBM:
Your smack is weak. VERY weak.

AlreadySheared

July 26th, 2010
1:38 pm

This story has similarities with various and sundry profiles of non-pedophile “dedicated teachers” over the years.

Note: I AM NOT SAYING THE OTHER SUPER-TEACHERS I HAVE READ ABOUT ARE IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM PEDOPHILES.

What I am saying is this. Oft times, when an exemplary teacher is profiled, a central component of demonstrating his or her greatness is the extent to which said teacher will become involved in his or her students’ lives OUTSIDE of the classroom – visits to students’ homes, clothing the hungry, feeding the naked, amazing field trips to include travel to other cities. The “great” teacher is portrayed not just as an extremely effective educator, but as a social worker/saint beneficently lifting up the lives of the downtrodden and disadvantaged.

One rarely sees a nationally celebrated “teacher of the year” whose sole exemplary attributes are excellent classroom management, student achievement, and enthusiasm for the subject matter taught, but whose personal life is not also totally kid-centric. Other professions (doctor, lawyer, indian chief) seem to have no trouble recognizing professional excellence even when saintliness is absent.

If Mr. Ricks committed the alleged crimes described, he had perfect professional cover for his misconduct. In the field of education, you can only become a really good teacher if you LOVE kids.

AlreadySheared

July 26th, 2010
1:40 pm

Maureen Downey

July 26th, 2010
1:40 pm

Already, You’re out

high school teacher

July 26th, 2010
2:35 pm

Okay, please let me clarify: I am well aware that there are sexual predators employed as educators. My original comment was simply that it’s sad to look at this blog and see mainly the negative aspects of education. I don’t live in the “Alice in Wonderland” world as accused; however, it would be nice to look at the blog occasionally to see some good things that occur in the classrooms in Georgia. I am not defending this man; I didn’t even read the story, to be quite honest. I saw the headline on the main page that said “molester as teacher.” In no way am I suggesting that we ignore the issues. I am just asking that we start a Monday morning with an educational issue that doesn’t involve sex, politicians, low test scores, or the inability of GA teachers. Some of us actually work hard, we motivate students, we really teach, and we are good at what we do. That’s all I’m saying.

B. Killebrew

July 26th, 2010
3:02 pm

Read the whole article…Whoa.

Proud Black Man

July 26th, 2010
3:19 pm

@ Mikey D

Your rebuttal is weak. VERY weak and probably evidence as your own sense of white skin privilege to make you think that your opinion is anything but inconsequential.

Ole Guy

July 26th, 2010
3:48 pm

You are absolutely correct, HS Teach. The non-education public would be thrilled to read of the good things happening in the classrooms…the very classrooms where we would like to see just how well our (and your) “tax investments” are performing. According to the publication:

SCHOOLZONE
Educational Intelligence

all schools must publish an annual prospectus (I would imagine the “must” part is a derivative of state governing boards, DOE, etc).

Perhaps these documents could be made available, through this blog series, and teachers might highlight their first-hand experiences as they relate to the schools’ attaining the goals within their prospectus.

We, the public, are, in effect, the stockholders of the institutions which you are charged with shepharding. We, the public, are aware of some of the problems within those institutions because YOU, the shephards, write only of those problems. This is one of the issues over which I often chastise the teacher corps…no one seems willing to accept a leadership role in educating the public…in offering a balanced view of what goes on inside that classroom.

Am I to presume, Teach, that you have stepped up to that challenge, to inform the public of some of the positive things coming out of the public school system? Perhaps your peers, the educators across Georgia, might wish to join in on informing the public of the positive aspects of education.

ScienceTeacher671

July 26th, 2010
7:09 pm

@high school teacher, I agree that there’s too much focus on the negative aspects of education, but on the other hand, I’ve noticed that when Maureen tries to post positive news, those articles get maybe 10 comments.

Mikey D

July 26th, 2010
7:42 pm

@PBM:
Again, very weak. And very tired. Glad you find it so easy to entertain yourself. Loser.

FoCo Teacher

July 26th, 2010
8:52 pm

@Ole Guy
“I’d be incensed that my governing body would be so ineffectual as to permit this sort of thing to go on for such a period of time.”

I think the article mentioned that the GPSC had no record of him – therefore, the “governing body” did NOT permit this to go on. However, if they had, we WOULD be incensed. I believe the only thing that “high school teacher” was trying to say is that it would be nice to begin Monday morning with good news, instead of more of the bad that has been around so regularly since I began reading.

@Maureen
I agree with “Teacher” – if you’d like to visit classrooms around the metro area for portraits of what happens in real classes, you’re welcome to visit mine. We (teacher and most students) speak in the target language, but methods can be seen – the words don’t always have to be understood. :)

Maureen Downey

July 26th, 2010
8:58 pm

FoCo Teacher, I am happy to visit any classroom to see great teaching in action. I know you start back in late August this year, so let’s consider September.
Maureen

Gwinnett Parent

July 27th, 2010
12:35 pm

I have to think about the posters that are upset that today’s kids question authority and don’t treat their teachers like god. Hmmm…This guy got away with molesting children for 30 yrs. Wonder how many of his victims were afraid to question authority or were conditioned to treat this man like a god.

Proud Black Man

July 27th, 2010
1:20 pm

@ Mikey D

Again, very weak. And very tired. Glad you find it so easy to entertain yourself. Loser.