A Wake County teacher accused of sex crimes involving a student in Durham could also face criminal charges over allegations he inappropriately touched a different student last year.
Troy Logan Pickens, a music teacher at Durant Road Middle School in Raleigh, was arrested Tuesday on charges of having sex with a 14-year-old female student when he taught at Neal Middle School in Durham.
Pickens resigned from the Durham school system March 13, 2015, two days after he was suspended with pay following another student’s report that he had grabbed her rear in class and told her to go to her seat, according to schools spokesman Chip Sudderth.
A detective with the Durham County Sheriff’s Office investigated the complaint at the time and presented findings to the Durham County District Attorney’s Office, where the case remains under review, according to Tamara Gibbs, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman.
It’s unclear if Wake knew of the suspension and law enforcement investigation before it hired Pickens in July 2015.
Sudderth did not say if information about the suspension was provided to Wake in 2015 or was requested by the district.
“We have no comment at this time regarding the reference check process,” Sudderth said Wednesday. “Typically, such communication is kept confidential due to state personnel laws protecting employee privacy.”
Matt Dees, a Wake schools spokesman, said Wednesday that he could not say if the district knew of Pickens’ suspension in 2015 because it gets into the specifics of a personnel matter. Dees said he also couldn’t say if Wake asks for personnel records of new hires because human resources officials who know about the hiring process weren’t available Wednesday.
But Dees said there is no master list of suspended teachers within North Carolina that school districts can reference before hiring employees.
Dees said that criminal background checks are conducted on all new hires. He added that charges of statutory rape, committing a sexual offense with a student and taking indecent liberties with a child were filed well after Pickens was hired.
Pickens is currently suspended with pay by Wake.
“Due to state personnel laws, we are limited in the information we can provide about employees, but we regularly review our hiring practices and will do so again in light of the charges filed against Mr. Pickens,” Dees said.
Pickens became the third Wake teacher arrested since October on charges of having sexual contact involving a student at a prior job.
In October, Sanderson High School music teacher Timothy Allen Bennett was charged with having sex with a 17-year-old male student at South Lenoir High School when he worked there.
In November, Athens Drive High School science teacher Devon Ross Lategan was charged by the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office with one felony count of sexual activity with a 17-year-old female student at West Henderson High School when he worked there.
Dees said both Bennett and Lategan have resigned from Wake.
The three recent arrests show the prevalence of sexual assault in society, said Wake school board Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler, who is also executive director of the N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Johnson-Hostler said Wake might need to revise its hiring policies.
“I always say we can have really good practices and people can learn how to navigate the system,” she said. “People who cause sexual harm are often savvy in how they have access to students.”
Staff writer Chris Cioffi contributed.