Polk School District Considers Hiring-Policy Changes After Scrutiny of Teacher Charged with Sexual Battery | #teacher | #children | #kids


Polk County Public Schools is proposing a major change in its hiring practices after a special education teacher and basketball coach was hired at Haines City High School more than a year after he was found not guilty of sending a sexually explicit image to and kissing a student at Poinciana High School.

Investigators said they believe that teacher, Wayne McKenzie Ricks II, then sexually battered a 16-year-old student at HCHS and now awaits trial on those charges.

At a work session today, the School Board, Superintendent Frederick Heid, and Senior Director of Government Affairs Wendy Dodge are scheduled to discuss the changes, which include:

  • The superintendent “reviewing each affidavit of separation from previous employers pursuant to FS 1012.31,” which deals with personnel files, including discipline and investigations.
  • Disqualifying a candidate “from employment in any position that requires direct contact with students if the candidate is ineligible for such employment under F.S. 1012.315, or if the candidate has been terminated or resigned in lieu of termination for sexual misconduct with a student.”
  • Making people “ineligible for educator certification or employment in any position that requires direct contact with students if the person is on the disqualification list maintained by the department … is registered as a sex offender … or has been convicted or found guilty of, has had adjudication withheld for, or has pled guilty or nolo contendere to any of the felony offenses listed in F.S. 1012.315.

PCPS spokesman Kyle Kennedy said its human resources team reviews all job applicants.

“Applications for employment come through Human Resource Services for vetting,” Kennedy said. “A review of previous work history is conducted by personnel investigators to determine if an applicant’s work history would prevent them from being employed.”

He said that someone convicted or found guilty of, has had adjudication withheld for, or has pleaded guilty or nolo contendere to any of the felony offenses listed in F.S. 1012.315 would not be hired at an off-campus site, like bus maintenance or the supply warehouse, even if they would not have contact with children.

“The same disqualifying criteria is utilized for all potential PCPS employees,” Kennedy said.

The changes come 18 months after Ricks’ arrest and following media reports, including a story in The Ledger, that Ricks was rehired in Florida as a teacher because the Florida Department of Education failed to flag his personnel file after his 2018 arrest in Poinciana. In addition, Polk County Public Schools appears to have conducted a flawed background check when HCHS hired him in 2020.

In January 2018, Ricks, now 30, was charged with battery on a minor for touching and kissing a 17-year-old Poinciana High student and sending her a picture of his penis via Snapchat. That phone app deletes messages after a short period of time and the girl did not take a screenshot of his message. He was found not guilty of those charges in May 2019.

From there, he went to work in August 2019 at a Winter Haven charter school and passed a PCPS criminal background check. In August 2020, he got a job at Haines City High. An investigative report with the state shows HCHS principal called a friend he knew at Poinciana High School to ask about Ricks instead of calling Osceola County Public Schools human resources department. The friend knew nothing about Ricks’ arrest. However, a Google search would have turned up the Poinciana arrest in news reports.



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