Monday, January 24, 2022

Teacher's sex charge raises questions about reference check process

— A Wake County schools spokesperson said Wednesday they did not know of the pending case in Durham County against one of their teachers from 2015 until they were contacted this week by investigators.

Troy Logan Pickens, 26, of 6620 Lake Hill Road in Raleigh, is charged with statutory rape, committing a sexual offense involving a student and taking indecent liberties with a child. He was arrested in Rockingham on Tuesday by members of the U.S. Marshals Joint Fugitive Task Force.

Pickens was hired in July 2015 by Durant Road Middle School in Wake County, and was suspended last week when the school system learned of the allegations against him. Pickens worked until March 2015 as a chorus teacher at Neal Middle School in Durham, where he resigned after a student claimed he said inappropriate things and possibly touched her, according to the Durham County Sheriff’s Office.

On Wednesday, Pickens made his first court appearance on the rape and other charges, which stemmed from allegations by a different Durham student. Family members of that 14-year-old victim said the incident happened in February 2015, but they only found out about the rape last week when the girl opened up about it in a paper she was writing for class.

The girl’s mother, who did not want to be identified, described her daughter as an honor roll student, someone who loved school and never got in trouble.

Pickens’ attorney argued that his client should get the benefit of the doubt, adding that he had no criminal record. Pickens’ brother defended him.

“My brother has been an advocate for youth and adults in the education system for 10 years,” he said. “Like his lawyer said, these are simply allegations.”

The victim’s family worries there may be additional victims and hopes that they have the strength to come forward.

In a statement, Matt Dees with Wake County Schools said, “Criminal background checks are conducted on all new hires, although charges in this case were not filed until well after the teacher was hired.”

Dees also said there is no “master list of suspended teachers” within the state that hiring districts can reference, and the school system will review their hiring practices. A Durham schools spokesperson declined to comment on what information they shared with Wake County during Pickens’ reference check. “Typically, such communication is kept confidential due to state personnel laws protecting employee privacy,” the district said in a statement.

“The allegations that resulted in Mr. Pickens’s suspension with pay from Durham Public Schools in March 2015 were investigated by the Durham County Office of the Sheriff at the time,” the statement said. That investigation remains under review.

Pickens’ bond was increased to $750,000.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Durham police Investigator J. Sandoval at 919-560-4440, extension 29461.

A special thank you to our friends at WRAL for helping out with this post.

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