School districts across the U.S. were rocked by teachers and employees allegedly preying on students and minors this year, including claims of teachers "ruining" the lives of minors and creating "nightmare" scenarios for families.
An estimated 10% of K-12 students will experience sexual misconduct at the hands of a school employee by the time they finish high school, a study published by the U.S. Department of Education in 2004 found. The study, which is still considered one of the most comprehensive investigations into education and sex crimes 20 years later, used a broad definition of sexual misconduct that included instances of sexually-charged comments to students, or physical assault.
In 2023, Fox News Digital found school districts across the nation have continued struggling with some employees and teachers who prey on minors, though such crimes are fairly rare when considering there are more than 3 million teachers in the U.S.
"As a father, I know this is a nightmare scenario for any parent," Broome County, New York, Sheriff Fred Akshar said in July. "We entrust our schools with the care and safety of our children, and to have an individual violate that trust, abuse their power and prey on a very student charged in our schools’ care is beyond disgusting."
Akshar was referring to the arrest of middle school principal Daniel Erickson, 55, after he allegedly tried to meet up with a 16-year-old girl at a remote location, bringing condoms, chicken nuggets and a Grimace milkshake from McDonald's to the meet-up spot, according to police.
Instead of meeting the young girl at the remote spot, the principal was greeted by arresting officers. He pleaded not guilty in the case, local reports show.
In Missouri last month, two female school employees were arrested for sexual conduct with their students and appeared before a judge on the same day, Fox Digital previously reported.
One teacher in the Kelly School District, Lindsey Limbaugh, 38, admitted to police that she had sex with a former student twice after striking up a relationship with the former student at a Lil Wayne concert. The other district employee, Kristin Kirker, was arrested after police determined she allegedly had sex with a student in her classroom and exchanged explicit photos with the student.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, another female teacher was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual battery last month for allegedly preying on a 17-year-old football player. The teenager’s mother blasted the private school teacher, saying she "ruined our son's life" with the alleged crime.
"He should be 100% focused on being a fun-loving football-playing young man, but this predator has robbed him of that ability. No young quarterback or athlete is safe in our community if this woman is free," the outraged mother continued.
"A trusted coach, teacher and friend that abused our trust and violated her oath as an educator. She has ruined our son's life," the teen's mother read from a statement in court.
Another high school teacher in Tennessee, previously recognized as a "Teacher of the Month," was arrested in August for aggravated statutory rape for allegedly having sex with a minor.
Fox News Digital found earlier this year that nearly 350 public educators were arrested for child sex-related crimes in the U.S. last year alone. The total of 349 educators arrested included five principals, three assistant principals, 290 teachers, 26 substitute teachers and 25 teachers’ aides spanning nearly every state in the country, the previous report found.
"This isn't surprising or new though it is hard to accept," Erika Sanzi, director of outreach at Parents Defending Education, told Fox News Digital at the time. "Since the dawn of time, sexual predators have found a way to embed themselves in child-rich environments and schools are no exception. Smartphones and encrypted apps have increased access to young children and adolescents and while it is a tiny fraction of educators who engage in this predatory behavior, we must do a much better job protecting children while also respecting due process. It's an icky topic, but hiding from it can't be an option."
The 2004 Department of Education report, which experts have previously told Fox News Digital needs to be updated with new data, found that most minors who suffer from sexual misconduct are left with life-long damage.
"For most children, being the victim of sexual misconduct does damage that lasts well into adulthood, and for most it is never fully repaired. Child sexual abuse targets lose trust in adults and authority figures, suffer physical ailments and lowered immune systems, and do less well in school," the report states.
Fox News Digital's Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report.