Safety expert voices concerns over school policies following sex crimes investigation into teacher
“How many points along the way were there where this could have been stopped?"
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 19 Investigates continues to dig deeper into the mounting allegations against embattled local dance instructor Terence Greene, who is currently under police investigation.
Greene, 54, is charged with sexual battery after “multiple victims,” including former students, reported incidents to police.
Our investigative team uncovered several documented allegations of sexual abuse made against Greene over the last two decades while he taught dance at the Cleveland School of the Arts and Cuyahoga Community College.
Since we broke the story last Thursday, the haunting question keeps coming up: how does anyone, dogged by so many allegations, continue to work with kids?
WATCH Part 1 below:
From the schools to police, we investigated what some believe are systemic breakdowns that allowed these alleged abuses, if true, to keep happening.
“It should have stopped with me,” said Nate, who asked that we do not use his last name. “Now, it is 18 years later after my first first situation and he’s still doing it.”
Nate was just 14 years old when he says Greene, who was his dance teacher at the Cleveland School of the Arts, began sexually abusing him in 2002.
“It was normalized for me,” said Nate. “It was very normalized for me.”
After Nate went to police in 2003, Greene was arrested and charged with four felony counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
Greene, then in his late 30s, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
WATCH Part 2 below:
Records obtained by 19 News show Nate gave investigators detailed accounts of his alleged abuse, sharing intimate details about Greene’s body and describing his teacher’s bedding.
Despite that testimony, Green was acquitted in 2004, but not by a 12 person jury.
Greene waived his right to a jury trial and chose to have a judge decide the case.
“It’s very disheartening because, like, we didn’t get him the first time,” said Nate.
Nate says the "first time" because he wouldn't be the only student to come forward with allegations about the dance teacher.
We found multiple complaints have been made against Greene since 2003, ranging from sexual misconduct to rape. None of those accusations ever led to any arrests or charges until the sexual battery charge that was filed last week.
After his acquittal in 2004, Greene went back to teach at the School of the Arts.
In 2011, a man told Cleveland Police that Greene had been sexually abusing him for years, and that the alleged abuse began when he was 7 years old. According to the police report, the victim said Greene was his relative and would “enter his bedroom and perform oral sex on him.”
Records show prosecutors declined to file charges against Greene in the 2011 case but the documents don’t explain why.
Three years later, another explicit complaint made by a School of the Arts student sparked yet another police investigation into Greene.
In July 2014, a former student reached out to a Cleveland Metropolitan School District staff member on Facebook, claiming he was “victimized” by Greene when he was in the 9th grade.
The school district then launched an internal investigation, according to former student Neemo Spencer, who says he was called in to answer questions years after he graduated from the arts school.
“I went in to interview with them, talk about my experience,” said Spencer, who claims Greene touched him inappropriately in 2008.
“I finally spoke out,” Spencer said. “That was my first time actually speaking with someone of authority about it.”
The school district says it reported the allegations to police.
Emails between CMSD and a Cleveland Division of Police commander show the case was assigned to sex crimes detective Tom Ross in July of 2014.
But years would go by without any movement in the case.
The police department says that is because Ross “failed to properly investigate,” not only the students’ allegations, but dozens of other sex crimes cases that were assigned to him in 2014.
19 News uncovered police records that show the 2014 criminal investigation into Greene is one of at least 60 cases that may have stalled in the hands of Ross.
In a separate sexual assault case assigned to Ross that same year, an internal affairs investigation found the detective “got a search warrant drawn up but did not execute it, never followed up with the suspect, never got a DNA sample and did not submit evidence.”
Records show the suspect in that case then went on to commit a rape several months later. He’s currently serving 18 years in prison.
“There were things that happened in this case that shouldn’t have happened,” Chief of Police Calvin Williams said during a news conference in 2018, when the city announced the results of an internal investigation into Ross and the department’s Sex Crimes Unit.
Ross was ultimately demoted from sergeant to patrol officer and remains on the force today.
We attempted to reach Ross for comment through the police department. A spokesperson told us, “We won’t be having him comment.”
Police internal affairs records reveal the detective never generated any reports in the case of the CMSD students, although it is noted that the case file included the 2003 case information and a copy of 2011 police report.
Greene was never criminal charged for the allegations made in 2014.
After the case was reassigned to another detective in 2016, prosecutors determined there was “insufficient evidence,” according to records.
The 2014 allegations did, however, lead Greene to resign from his position at the School of the Arts.
In Sept. 2014, he filled out a school district form stating he was resigning for “personal reasons.”
The school district says prior to Greene submitting the resignation notice, he was informed that his contract for the 2014-2015 school year was rescinded.
One year later, Greene was hired to work with students again at Cuyahoga Community College, where he taught dance to “pre-college” kids ages 3 to 18.
Records show Greene abruptly left Tri-C this past January after new allegations were made by a 17-year-old high school senior.
The teen told police he was sexually assaulted by Greene at the dance teacher’s Garfield Heights home after dance practice last fall.
A representative for Tri-C says Greene was allowed to resign from his job as Program Manager of the Dance Academy in lieu of termination. He was told not to return to campus or have any contact with students.
Records show Tri-C continued to pay Greene and provide benefits through April 2020.
“Schools have a reputation for ‘passing the trash,‘ allowing an employee to leave in their district so they don’t have to deal with the problem, only to move to another school environment,” said Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services.
The Cleveland-based national consulting firm specializes in school security and emergency preparedness issues and works with preK-12 schools to help improve student safety.
Trump says allowing employees to resign instead of firing them, especially if there appear to be multiple red flags, is a dangerous practice that could put children in harm’s way.
“[It] really puts kids at risk,” Trump said. “Not only one kid but multiple kids over time, and it makes it harder for the problem to be detected and stopped along the way because it opens up holes for more opportunities, incidents to slide through the cracks.”
19 News requested a copy of Greene’s personnel file from CMSD but we were told the school district didn’t have one.
When the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office subpoenaed Greene’s CMSD employment records following his criminal charges in 2003, records show the district said it had “no record of employment for Mr. Greene.”
According to CMSD, Greene was not an employee of the school district. Instead, a spokesperson told 19 News he was a “consultant” and that they don’t keep personnel files on consultants.
In Trump’s opinion, schools should not treat consultants any differently.
“The same standards should be in place whether it’s an employee full time or an independent contractor,” he said.
We also asked if CMSD ever conducted a background check on Greene before hiring him.
In an email, a spokesperson told us, ”I doubt it, because he works for an outside agency.”
Trump says schools should have a policy requiring a background check for anyone working around children, regardless of whether they are an employee or a contractor.
When Greene applied for a job at Tri-C in 2015, the school did look into his background.
19 News obtained a copy of the background check, which was conducted by an outside company.
While the background check did not reveal Greene’s 2003 criminal case and acquittal, or include any of the police reports filed about him, it does state the left CMSD because of “allegations with students.”
Tri-C confirmed that Greene’s background check was reviewed before he was hired in Oct. 2015.
“School officials need to look at the background and say, ‘Is this someone I would want teaching my child? Is this someone who should be in front of and have authority over any children?‘” Trump said.
In an email to 19 News, a representative for Tri-C told us, “We rely on the results of background screenings and other information available to us at the time of hire. Terence Greene’s background check revealed no cases or convictions. It’s difficult to speculate what actions might have been taken if we had the 2003 acquittal information at that time. We do not have any policies that disqualify a candidate based on allegations of sexual abuse or any other crime.”
“There is a big difference between someone who had an unproven case decades ago and someone who has multiple incidents that you can find out about through documented records and asking questions of employers,” said Trump.
“If school officials don’t make the phone calls and talk with people, they aren’t going to see some of the red flags from farther back that there might be a problem with the applicant,” he said.
In late June, county prosecutors referred a case involving at least three former CMSD students, including Spencer, to the Cleveland Police Sex Crimes Unit for investigation.
19 News was first to report the sexual battery charge that was filed against Greene last week.
His arrest warrant says he performed oral sex on a student in a dressing room at the School of the Arts in 2008.
According to Cleveland Police, “multiple victims have come forward with extremely similar incidents that happened to them.”
Nobody came to the door when we went to Greene’s home in Garfield Heights last week to ask him about the allegations. We also reached out to him by phone and he did not return our calls.
Nate, the accuser in the 2003 case against Greene, says in light of the current police investigations, some of his former classmates who thought he was lying about the teacher have been reaching out to apologize.
He says they are now telling him they believe what he told police in 2003 is true.
“I am grateful for that,” he said. “It brings me a lot of healing and a lot of closure.”
Nate believes more victims will come forward in the weeks ahead to share their stories.
“There is no more time to waste,” he said. “Right now with COVID and everything there is no school to go back to, so this is the time so he cannot go back to school anymore to teach any more kids. This is the time now.”
Again, Greene was acquitted of the 2003 accusation, and the current allegations are only allegations unless proven in court.
As of Monday evening, Greene had not been taken into police custody.
Anyone with information his whereabouts can contact the Cleveland Police Sex Crimes Unit at (216) 623-5630.
We will continue to provide updates on Greene’s case as they become available.
If you suspect a child is being abused, please call the state hotline at 855-O-H-CHILD or 855-642-4453. You will be linked directly to a child welfare or law enforcement office in your county.
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