By Matthew Hendley
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By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
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"We do not have enough evidence against your ex-husband to proceed with a court," Charles Didier wrote. "Even the police department does not have sufficient proof to prosecute him . . . Try not to be preoccupied by the actions of your ex-husband . . . There isn't much we can do at the present time."
Rabe responded tersely: "Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.'"
Some good people did want to do something about David McCord, even if the police couldn't and the school wouldn't.
Detective Bill Richardson wanted to send his report on McCord to the Arizona Board of Education, in an effort to get McCord's teaching credential yanked. He says Mesa Police Department's legal adviser told him not to.
"He said McCord might sue us if we submitted it," Richardson recalls, "and that I was not under any circumstances to do it."
Berkley Lunt--director of teacher certification at the Arizona Department of Education--says Mesa's fears were misguided. "Anyone can file a complaint with us," Lunt says. "All complaints are considered seriously."
McCord's personnel file with the state contained nothing negative until after his sex-crimes conviction this year.
@body:McCord moved to Kentucky soon after he quit teaching at Mesa High. In July 1986, he applied with the Bowling Green School District for a substitute teacher's job.
Records show McCord subbed there until that Christmas. A clerk with the district says "apparently nothing turned up during our background check that kept us from giving him work. And we do do backgrounds, even on subs."
If that's true, then Mesa school officials didn't tell Bowling Green what they knew about the molesting allegations against McCord.
That isn't surprising, says Bill Williams, superintendent of the Flagstaff School District and chairman of the state's Professional Practices Advisory Committee--an arm of the state Department of Education.
Williams says many school administrators in Arizona--and their attorneys--are scared to death of lawsuits by ex-teachers. "The lawyers keep telling us to worry about liability; in other words, say as little as possible," Williams says.
That kind of legal paranoia doesn't have to hold sway in Arizona. State law says school districts are immune from civil liability for passing along background information unless they "know the information is false or act with reckless disregard of the information's truth or falsity."
In Mesa's case, no one ever tried to determine the truth of the molesting allegations against McCord. Instead, they let him just go away.
McCord returned to Arizona from Kentucky in January 1987 and applied for work as a substitute teacher in Gilbert.
Getting work as a sub in the Valley is a snap. Few area school districts do more than confirm an applicant has a valid teaching credential and doesn't have a criminal record.
Although McCord worked in Gilbert only one day--because Detective Richardson heard about McCord's new job and called a Gilbert High administrator--he had many other school districts to choose from.
Mesa's personnel records were so sloppy, McCord actually returned to the school district as a substitute at Dobson High School. Dr. Alberto Texidor, Dobson's psychologist at the time, could hardly believe his eyes when he saw McCord at the school.
That's because Texidor had examined Barbara Rabe's three adopted children in connection with the pending civil lawsuit against McCord. He had concluded in an affidavit: "It is my opinion that the Rabe children were exposed to past inappropriate sexual conduct . . ."
Texidor says he shared his concerns about McCord with Dobson's principal, and he never saw McCord at the school again.
But McCord's license to teach in Arizona remained intact. Later in the 1987-88 school year, he tried his luck a few miles away in Phoenix.
@body:South Mountain High in the late 1980s was starting to earn a national reputation for its progressive approach to education. The inner-city magnet school rightfully prided itself on its concerned, caring staff and its responsive student body.
It was into this healthy milieu that David McCord injected himself. A reliable substitute, he worked almost every day there during the 1987-88 school year. He was a hit with the administration, which appreciated the extra time he put in with his students--again, almost exclusively males.
South Mountain High had openings for about 60 new teachers before the 1988-89 school year. McCord was an easy choice for a slot as a math teacher, recalls Rene Diaz, then the school's principal.
"He already was one of us," says Diaz, now the principal at Maryvale High. "People knew him and how well he worked with the students."
Diaz takes a long pause, a decent man about to make a most damaging admission: "Because of that, our background check was not as thorough as it could have been, should have been."
Such background checks were the law in Arizona long before David McCord ever applied for a job. The law says in part: "The district shall make documented, good faith efforts to contact previous employers of a person to obtain information and recommendations which may be relevant to a person's fitness for employment."
South Mountain hired McCord full-time August 23, 1988. Three weeks after that, Superior Court Judge Stephen Gerst approved an out-of-court settlement between Barbara Rabe and McCord. The judge ordered McCord--or his insurance company--to pay Rabe and her children $6.3 million.