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                        H o w   w e   t a k e   b a c k   o u r   c h i l d r e n ' s    e d u c a t i o n:  o n e   p e r s o n ,   o n e   q u e s t i o n ,   o n e   s c h o o l   a t   a   t i m e .          Copyright 1999-2008 Peyton Wolcott
Conservative Commentary - Strongsville, Ohio teacher Christine Scarlett)
'Win a date with me at DQ'
special ed teacher
Christine Scarlett indicted
By Peyton Wolcott
Saturday - June 10, 2006 - 11:44 p.m.
Bradigan's parents Lawrence
and Mary received two counts
each for their failure to report
the molestation to either school
officials or the police when they
first discovered it.  Last
January, James F. McCarty of
the Cleveland Plain Dealer
reported that Lawrence
accused the Strongsville
school district of negligence for
failing to pursue a criminal
investigation of Scarlett. '"They
asked her if she had sex with
my son, and she said, 'No.'  
That was the extent of the
school's investigation."
Teachers sometimes
are victims, union
reminds legislator
Oct, 25, 2007
Jennifer Smith Richards and Jill
Riepenhoff - staff writers/The
Columbus Dispatch

Ohio's teachers unions want to
protect children but also shield
teachers from "numerous" false
allegations from misguided
students, union officials told the
House Education Committee

"It is an unfortunate reality that
educators are susceptible to
being the targets of unfair,
unfounded and horribly
damaging accusations," said
Rachelle Johnson, director of
legal services for the Ohio
Education Association, the
state's largest teachers union.

Students who feel slighted by
bad grades or too-little playing
time on sports teams -- or who
simply dislike their teachers --
sometimes lodge false
allegations and destroy
teachers' reputations, Johnson
testified. When questioned about
the frequency, she told
lawmakers she didn't have
specific numbers on hand.

The second day of committee
hearings, prompted by a
10-month Dispatch investigation
into the state's
educator-misconduct system,
brought few specific
recommendations from the

But an impassioned
plea from parents of a
teacher-abuse victim
grabbed lawmakers'
"The health
and well-being of our
children depend on our
voices being heard,"
said Mary Bradigan,
whose 17-year-old son
was seduced by a
teacher at Strongsville
High School in 2002.
The student was a
junior and captain of the
football team.

Teacher Christine
Scarlett gave birth to the
student's child in 2003;
the relationship ended a
year later.

Scarlett, now 40,
pleaded guilty in May to
sexual battery and
materials harmful to
juveniles. She was
placed on probation for
five years and is a
registered sex offender.
She still holds a
teaching certificate.
In troubling circumstances
such as these outlined on
this page, where the lives
of ten human beings
(Scarlett's and Bradigan's
immediate families, plus
the new son/grandson)
have been permanently
impacted, often the best
for which one can hope is
that something will be
learned and changes
instituted in policy and
procedures guaranteeing
that at least this particular
mis-step can be avoided
in the future. In February
2006 I asked the following
questions of Strongsville
supe James Gray; to date
he has not yet responded.  
Perhaps he's been busy.
Ask the
ethics expert
It just doesn't look good.
 It's not best face

Most people would
agree that where they
live and where they pay
their taxes, that's the
community of priority to
them, and that's the
community they're going
to pay more attention to.

So the ideal thing is for
superintendents to live
in the community where
they work so their
vested interests are
more closely aligned.  

In the private sector
where we talk about
stock options for
executives, the point is
to try to align the
executives' interests
with those of the

This is a very similar
concern in that the
board would want to
see the interests of the
superintendent as
carefully aligned with
the interests of the
education community
as possible.
Is Strongsville supe James
Gray still living in Akron
rather than Strongsville?
There is no indication anywhere
that I've been able to discover that
Strongsville trustees have required
their superintendent, James Gray,
to move from his home in Akron to
Strongsville so that he can play a
more hands-on role in their
community and at least be alert to
rumors circulating, the kinds of
things you hear at the grocery store
and the local coffee shop.

Given this lack of discernible
response by either the supe or his
board, it's difficult to see any such
lessons-learned outcome for
Strongsville City Schools.  

I have been requesting a response
from Gray and his trustees since
Valentine's Day (unintentional
timing on my part) two years ago,
starting with "What rules/ guidelines
do you now have in place to
assure that nothing like this
happens again?)  (See the
remainder of the query at right.)  

To date, neither superintendent
Gray nor his board have seen fit to
send a response save one trustee
whose response could most
charitably be characterized as

What corrective actions if
any have Strongsville's
supe and/or board taken?
As by my calendar these
questions have now been on the
table for almost four months, alert
Strongsville residents are hopefully asking themselves serious
questions about both their supe and their trustees.

It's easy and certainly pleasant enough to pose for happy-occasion
photo-ops such as the one above right, and clearly congratulations are
in order.  

However, the real mettle of a school board is showing up also for the
tough decisions regarding accountability--and being open with the
community and the press--regarding how safe an environment they
and their administration are creating for their schoolchildren.  Clearly if
superintendent Gray allowed the Scarlett/Bradigan situation occur
under his nose without his knowledge, the trustees need more than
assurances from the administration that with Scarlett gone now all is

Lightning does strike twice; just today comes a report of a new
situation in the same school (see (3) at far left).
Then-Strongsville trustees in
celebratory mood

How we take back our children's education:
one person, one question, one school at a time.
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Copyright 1999-2008 Peyton Wolcott

How do you
yourself know for
a fact that your
state or local supe
is actually using
the funds entrusted
to them for the
correct purposes?
22, 2006

Can you please
send me the
annual dollar
each school year
(the five annual
fiscal cycles
2000-2005) that
the Georgia
Public Schools
DOE has spent
with vendor
Services Corp.
described as a
consultant to
Georgia's DOE.

Dear Strongsville
James Gray:

I'm hoping you can
clear something up
for me for my book
and website
regarding your
standards for
practices in
Strongsville as
there have been
not one but two
situations this past
year warranting

special ed
teacher Christine
Scarlett's offering
a date with
herself as a
grades incentive

1.    What rules/
guidelines do
you now have in
place to assure
that nothing like
this happens
these be
changes or has
your board set
specific policies in
place for you to
follow in future?

Rumors of an
affair between
Scarlett and
Bradigan persisted
for several months.
 You have stated
that you have no
idea such an affair
was going on.  Do
you feel
the fact
that you are
commuting from
your home in
(if this has
changed, please let
me know) has
impacted your
ability to monitor
what's going on
with your
employees in the
community in an
important and
sensitive area such
as this?  Has your
board since made
a condition of your
employment that
you move to
Strongsville and
become an integral
part of their

Regarding the
sex education
booklet placed
last fall in young
children's lockers

4.    What
guidelines did
you follow from
your established
board's policies for

5.    There appears
to be a growing
number of parents
who want to be
consulted before
such materials are
given to their
students.  As one
mom put it, "What's
wrong with so
many people in the
educational fields
that they don't even
think twice about
providing children
with inappropriate
materials and not
even consider the
tactics mirror those
used in Communist
China and Cuba
where children are
considered not
children of parents,
but wards of the
State."  While this
is clearly the
statement of an
upset parent, it
does raise an
interesting issue
regarding public
administrators in
the U.S.  
Do you
consider the
students in your
schools yours to
educate as you
deem best or the
offspring of
parents to be
consulted before
such materials?

trainings and

6.    Of which
associations are
you and
Strongsville City
Schools a
are these
guidelines for
disseminating such

7.    In which
conferences have
your and your
staff participated
this past year?  
Where were they
and what were
the costs for
Have you
attended any other
workshops or the
like offering
guidance in this
area, and what
were those costs?

It may well be that
there are perfectly
explanations for
your approving the
pamphlets in young
students' lockers
without notifying
parents first, and it
may also well be
that there is a
explanation for
your allowing a
teacher to offer a
date at the Dairy
Queen with herself
to a young student;
if so, I am eager to
learn such reason
or reasons.
She said the booklet,
which also provides
information on the
need for parental
consent for abortion
and a Web address
for the Lesbian/Gay
Community Service
Center of Greater
Cleveland, is
inappropriate for
11-year-olds.  I
believe some sex
education needs to
be given, but when
subjects are
discussed or material
is given to kids of this
nature, a notice
should be sent home
to the parent and
they should be
allowed to opt out of
the program if they
wish, Fleming said.  
James Gray said he
gave an OK for the
directories, which
were provided to the
district by United Way
Services in
conjunction with the
county health
department and
commissioners, to be
given to students at
the high school,
middle schools and
to sixth graders.  Gray
said he received two
calls from parents
who took exception to
the booklet's content.  
I understand that and
probably, in
retrospect, I should
have considered
sending a letter
along with it as far as
an explanation, he
said, adding, this is a
developing situation.
I don't know what we
are going to do at this
point.  Colleen Grady,
a city resident and a
member of the state
school board, said
she got calls from
four parents
concerned about
their children getting
the directory.  Grady,
who is also a former
city school board
member, said she
has not personally
seen the publication,
but they (parents)
read me sections
over the telephone.  
She said the state
board of education
may wish to make a
recommendation to
the Ohio general
assembly, and the
board could also
consider discussion
about adoption of a
model policy for the
distribution of such
materials.  Gray said
there will be
continued discussion,
in the district's
curriculum and pupil
services departments
on whether to curtail
distribution of
materials which are
considered to be
sensitive, particularly
for the younger kids.
 Am I alone or
is there a strong bias in
favor of the pro-education
establishment in the
following article?  I
welcome your
For her seduction of then-17
year old high school student
Steven Bradigan,
then-Strongsville High School
special education substitute
teacher Christine Scarlett (39 at
the time) was indicted Tuesday
by the Cuyahoga County grand
jury on 18 counts of sexual
battery ("No person shall
engage in sexual conduct with
another...when any of the
following apply: (6)
The...offender has supervisory
or disciplinary authority over the
other person") (statute
2907.03) and 2 counts of
"disseminating matter harmful
to juveniles" (statute 2907.31).
Steven Bradigan (R) in court last month
asking for custody of his son
James Gray (seated) with unidentified
then-Strongsville Community Schools folks
Steve Bradigan succeeded in
obtaining joint custody of his
now-two year old son by
Scarlett last month in Cuyahoga
County Juvenile Court.

FOOTNOTE:  The limited
self-investigation by
Strongsville City Schools,
including taking their teacher's
word as truth, is one of the chief
reasons why incidents like this
need to be turned over to
investigative authorities
immediately.   While as a
general rule I advocate local
control for most situations, it is
my observation that in
situations where alleged
misdeeds occur on public
school campuses that school
district self-investigation seems
most often most weighted in
favor of ascertaining that no
misdeed occurred rather than
ascertaining the truth.   

Also, supe James Gray, who at
last report still lives not in
Strongsville but an hour away in
Akron, denied knowing about
the molestation initiated by
Scarlett while in the employ of
Strongsville City Schools or that
Scarlett continued to see
Bradigan after she was fired, or
that she gave birth to his child
or that she had made the
date-for-grades offer to her
students.  "I never heard of that
in my life," he said, adding that
his "first consideration was the
safety of our students."   
Plain Dealer)
  It should be
pointed out for clarity's sake that
Gray has received no
Questions for
substitute teacher
Christine Scarlett
(R) was age 39
at the time,
her student only 17;
Strongsville supe
James Gray.
(3) SAME HS, REDUX--2008?
Parents testify
In early 2006, when I
contacted Diane
award-winning ethics
expert (von Waaden
Business Administra-
tion Professor, Chair of
the Ethics Initiative at
Kansas State Universi-
ty), on the subject of
superintendents not
living in the school
districts they run and
from which they earn
their paychecks, the
following were her
The Bradigans' attempts to hold the school district accountable failed. Their civil
suit against the district was dismissed. While no school officials faced
consequences, the Bradigans were convicted and placed on probation for failing
to report a felony -- the sexual assault of their son.

"Schools don't know about the reporting requirements," Bradigan said. "There
needs to be a 'fire drill' for school districts -- when this happens, what do you

The Dispatch series, "The ABCs of Betrayal," found that school districts often fail
to report educator misconduct to the Education Department. It also found that
since 2000, more than 1,700 educators have been disciplined, but two-thirds
returned to the classroom or were issued licenses.

School officials already have pledged change. An online database that tracks
Ohio teacher discipline will launch Nov. 1. Gov. Ted Strickland called for a
national clearinghouse to track educator discipline.

Darold Johnson of the Ohio Federation of Teachers recommended, among other things, counseling for
students who have crushes on their teachers and creating guidelines to govern some types of
student-teacher communication, such as text messaging, e-mails and after-hours contact. He also said
misconduct in charter schools shouldn't be overlooked.

Thomas Ash, who heads the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, asked lawmakers to give
superintendents the power to suspend educators suspected of wrongdoing.

"We do a sleight of hand, a reassignment to make sure the person who is accused doesn't have access
to witnesses or to the alleged victim," he said.

Committee chairwoman Arlene J. Setzer, R-Vandalia, said legislators will digest the two days of
testimony and decide what changes to the law should be made.
                                                         Feb. 24, 2008
Alert readers have led me to the following
published report regarding a new, different
Strongsville High School (below) teacher
and a new, different Strongsville High School
17-year old student.  Yet again, according to
this report, in this new situation Strongsville
Schools repeated their prior mistakes in the
Christine Scarlett case, again self-
investigating, again not following proper
reporting requirements, this new incident
leading to reader comments along the lines
of,  "Didn't they learn anything after what our
community went through two years ago?"
Strongsville schools accused of
hindering investigation of
teacher-student relationship
Sunday, January 27, 2008
James F. McCarty
Cleveland Plain Dealer  

Police have accused Strongsville school
officials of hindering a criminal investigation
by failing to promptly report allegations that
a teacher had a sexual relationship with a

School officials waited for more than a
month before alerting Cuyahoga County
Children and Family Services in December.
And they waited another eight days before
calling police, said Police Chief C.W. Goss.

"When such a delay occurs, you can
imagine that you're not going to be dealing
with fresh evidence," Goss said. "It may
ultimately damage our ability to successfully
prosecute the case."

The high school teacher has not been
charged with a crime, so The Plain Dealer
will not name him in this story. He has been
on paid leave since Dec. 12.

Both the teacher and the student, a 17-year-old junior,
have told school officials that the accusations - first made
in an anonymous call to the school in early November -
are false.

The teacher, a married father, also denied the allegations
in a telephone conversation with a reporter Friday. But he
declined to elaborate.

The teen has told investigators that the teacher did nothing
wrong. But police Lt. Mark Stepanovich said detectives
are not convinced, and are continuing to work with county
prosecutors on the investigation.

"The victim has been less than straightforward with us,"
Stepanovich said. "Her mother wants this case resolved.
And if the allegations prove true, she wants him
prosecuted. But at this point, we're playing catch-up."

After receiving the anonymous call, school officials
conducted an internal investigation and decided the report
was not credible, district spokesman Scott Ross said

But they didn't tell police or Children and Family Services
until after they received a letter Dec. 5 that was signed by
the parents of a student who is a friend of the teen.

Even then, school officials were less than helpful, said
Jim McCafferty, director of Children and Family Services.

"The school wouldn't give us the victim's name, and said
they were only doing it [calling Children and Family
Services] because they were supposed to," McCafferty
said. "Without a name, we couldn't do anything."

McCafferty said school officials were "walking a fine line"
in following the law that requires them to immediately
report allegations of sexual abuse to police or social
services. He said he has turned over to police a tape
recording of the initial call from school officials to help
determine whether any laws were broken.

Ross said the school complied with the letter of the
reporting law. He said police never aired their problems
with the timeliness of the report to school officials, and
failed to return school officials' calls seeking updates on
the status of the investigation.

"I think we need to get beyond the pettiness and focus on
the matter at hand," Ross said.

The accusations are a hot topic of instant-messaging
conversations on the Internet, causing several parents to
worry about their children's safety, Stepanovich said. To
his knowledge, though, none of the exchanges has been
threatening, he added.

Two years ago, Strongsville school officials
were criticized for their delay in reporting
allegations against a former substitute
teacher. Christine Scarlett eventually
pleaded guilty to charges that she seduced
the 17-year-old captain of the high school
football team. Scarlett, 40, received house
arrest and probation for sexual battery last

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:  
jmccarty@plaind.com, 216-999-4153
Updated 02.24.08

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Strongsville High School