Who's teaching your children?

State discipline records reveal criminal behavior

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - They are headshots area teachers probably never wanted you to see.

In 2005, Richard Desormier was teaching English at Independence Middle School in Jupiter  when he pled guilty to domestic battery.  Police say he banged his wife's head against a door.

In 2006- West Boca High teacher Marcia Wiant admitted to police that she "messed up" when she was pulled over for a second DUI.

And in 2008, Betty Barnard was teaching gifted at Belle Glade Elementary when, police say, she attempted to strike someone in the chest with a knife.

Barnard was charged with battery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Both charges were dropped after she entered into a diversionary program.

While each one of these individuals paid their price in court when it came to their teaching job, the state handed down a letter of reprimand some probation time, but ultimately all three were allowed to keep their teaching certificates, and today, they all remain in our classrooms.

Click here to see if a teacher has been subject to state disciplinary action.

"Not a good example for my children," said Elena Martinez who is a mother of four and finds it a little disturbing.

"When you're a teacher, you're held to a different standard than everybody else, I believe," she said.

The Contact 5 Investigators found more than 50 other cases involving local teachers, serious allegations and seemingly, soft punishment.

"I think in some cases teachers are let off too easily, " says Dr. Mark Strauss. He admits the subject keeps him up at night.

"I have said on the record, we will see this person again and it's not, it's not a good feeling," he said.

Strauss is Chairman of the Florida Education Practices Commission. The five-member state board has the final say on who gets to teach in Florida and who doesn't.

"You're saying there are teachers who do bad and still remain in the classroom," asked the Contact 5 Investigators?

"Unfortunately, I would have to yes there are because there are situations that come to us that are beyond our control," he said.

"What do you say to parents who are listening to this and saying oh my god this guy is admitting there could be bad teachers in our classrooms," asked the Contact 5 Investigators.

"On the surface that would be my reaction to.  99.5% of our teachers who are out there, we never see. So we're talking about a very small percentage of our population to begin with," he said.

In Okeechobee county, a teacher is still on the job after pleading no contest to prescription drug fraud.

In Indian River County, teacher Brian Krystoforski is still teaching after, at least, 5 DUI arrests and resisting arrest with violence. He plead no contest to the latter.

And Jack Valvo is still teaching after he was arrested in 2006, for offering an undercover law enforcement officer $15 bucks for oral sex.

Click here to see if a teacher has been subject to state disciplinary action.

The charge, soliciting to commit prostitution.

The punishment, a diversion program.  Valvo completed the program and the charge was  dropped.

Today, Valvo remains a teacher for the Palm Beach County school district. 

"That's surprising for sure," said Deborah Wilhelm, President of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association.

"I, I don't know how to respond to that one.  Prostitution is a steep crime," said Wilhelm when we asked about the Valvo case.

What's her explanation for the other teachers we found back in the classroom?

"They're so burdened with work and meetings and additional required duties. It doesn't surprise me that some of these teachers break. It doesn't surprise me and it's sad because some of them are probably really good teachers and they made a bad decision."

While the teachers union is quick to defend bad behavior, those who decide on punishment admit they don't always get it right.

"You're sitting there and your gut is telling you this person should not be around children, this person has done some really wrong things or the allegations are that this person has done some really bad things but at the end of the day, the proof isn't there," said Krauss.

Failing the legal test leaves the state doing what it only can.

"Sometimes we do settle for less than we would like to but sometimes something is better than nothing, " said Krauss.

Click here to look up the certificate status for a teacher in Florida.

Investigative Producer Lynn Walsh contributed to this story.

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