By Stephen Lemons
By Weston Phippen
By New Times Staff
By Stephen Lemons
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Stephen Lemons
By New Times Staff
By Stephen Lemons
The 18-year-old turned on his tape recorder and spoke from the heart.
"There's more out there than the anger and violence you see," he said. "There's beauty, there's love, there's happiness and there's joy. You need to go out and find it. And you better hold onto it tight, man, cuz you can lose it in a heartbeat."
Sobbing, the young man signed off. "This is Richard Edward Deuel. Goodbye and I love you." Ricky titled the tape his "Last Will and Testament."
Five weeks later, Ricky walked into his parents' bedroom and collapsed in his mother's arms. Mary Deuel cradled him in her lap. Ricky took three deep breaths and died of heart failure.
@body:Ricky's father stood before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Norman Hall last April 23.
"A pedophile is a human thing that tries to steal a portion of the soul of a child," Chick Deuel told the judge at the sentencing of South Mountain High math teacher David McCord. "McCord used his position of trust at South Mountain to satisfy his perverted lust for youth. Fortunately, he did not manage to steal Ricky's soul. Rick grew up to be a man of honor. He wanted very, very much to be here."
Several months later, at their middle-class home in west Phoenix, the Deuels spoke of their oldest son's struggles. They recalled how Ricky had made news in 1973 by becoming the nation's youngest recipient of a heart pacemaker.
The Deuels spoke briefly and with hatred of David McCord, the molesting teacher now serving what amounts to a life term in prison. But the couple saved much of their venom for the school officials who hired McCord.
"It's them I feel the anger toward," Mary Deuel said, clutching a framed photograph of her late son. "There were so many ways to catch up to Mr. McCord. He shouldn't have been allowed around kids. Ever."
The Deuels only know the half of it.
A New Times investigation shows how gross negligence by Phoenix and Mesa school officials allowed McCord access to students for nearly a decade:
ù A sex-crimes detective told Mesa High School's principal in 1985 that the only reason he hadn't arrested McCord on charges of molesting three young children was that the children had been judged incompetent to testify. The principal allowed McCord to teach through the end of the school year, when he resigned. The Mesa district later let McCord work as a substitute until a school psychologist familiar with the earlier allegations complained.
ù The Phoenix Union High School District hired McCord full-time in August 1988 after a superficial background check uncovered nothing suspicious about his past.
ù South Mountain High failed to investigate allegations of molesting against McCord for almost one year before police arrested him in January 1991. During that time, he had sexual contact with at least three new victims.
Reams of alarming material about McCord were readily available through public records. One prime source of information was on file at the Maricopa County Superior Court. In September 1988, McCord's ex-wife and three adopted children won a $6.3 million civil judgment against him. The suit accused McCord of sexually molesting the youngsters. Experts in the case judged McCord a pedophile, an adult who seeks sexual gratification from children. (For legal reasons, the family never collected a penny.)
South Mountain hired McCord full-time just a few days before the devastating court judgment. But apparently no one at the school ever learned about it.
"I won't hide what happened," says South Mountain principal Art Lebowitz. "We didn't have an appropriate system in place that made us check backgrounds like we should have. The guy had proven himself with us as a substitute. Who was going to sit there and think, 'Let's call and see if we have a pedophile on our hands'? I hope this never happens again."
But it will, according to more than 30 education and law enforcement professionals interviewed for this story. While the McCord case is heinous, almost everyone agrees it's not an aberration.
One reason is that many Arizona school administrators are afraid to release relevant background information about ex-employees to prospective employers. Prodded by skittish attorneys, these administrators apparently fear being sued more than they fear for the safety of students.
Another problem is that some districts ignore a common-sense Arizona law that demands "documented, good faith efforts" at background investigations.
A check of records shows 117 teachers and administrators have been disciplined by the Arizona Board of Education since 1985. Sixty-four of those--or 55 percent--have been rebuked for sexual improprieties.
Those are only the cases we know about: As the McCord case indicates, some of Arizona's 215 school districts follow unspoken policies that allow wayward teachers to resign without a red flag on their records. Remarkably, some school boards agree not to release any information as part of termination settlements with departing teachers.
"If a district knows that a teacher may have molested and allows him or her to resign and just walk away, that district is criminal," says Vic Hooper, a Mesa insurance agent who serves on an advisory board to the Arizona Department of Education. "Unfortunately, many do it."
Thus, dangerous teachers may move from school to school, their credentials intact.
"McCord was a predatory pedophile," says Bill Richardson, a retired Mesa police detective who investigated McCord for child-molesting in the mid-1980s. "Trouble is, the school districts in Mesa and Phoenix didn't do anything about him until it was too late."
@body:"With my experience, I could have seen through that guy like he was wearing a neon light," says Phoenix police detective Mariano Albano. "Many people don't know what to look for. Always hanging out with certain boys. Volunteering. Friendly. Popular. Always on the hunt."
David McCord was a pro at seducing young people, especially those with emotional and physical problems. And he was just as good at fooling adults.
New Times pieced together McCord's background from interviews, public records and confidential psychological reports. Not surprisingly, what emerges is a portrait of a bright, manipulative man unable to control his sexual appetite for boys.
McCord told one psychologist of an unhappy middle-class childhood during which he felt isolated and inept. An overweight and uncoordinated youth, he had few pals in his native Bluffton, Indiana.
As a 7-year-old, McCord said, an older boy introduced him to sex during a relationship that spanned years. He described numerous other homosexual encounters during his adolescence and adulthood.
McCord attended the University of Indiana for one year, then transferred to the University of Colorado. He dropped out and moved back to Indiana, where he worked in a factory.
After returning to Colorado in the mid-1970s, McCord made news for the first time. Reporters from London to Lisbon wrote about it; Johnny Carson joked about it. A Boulder County court clerk in March 1975 issued McCord and his male lover a marriage license. Many called it the nation's first legally sanctioned same-sex marriage.
The state of Colorado later nullified such marriages, but McCord told the Boulder Daily Camera in 1978 it didn't matter. He had become a Mormon, he said, and was embracing heterosexuality. The interview ended with McCord saying he was "looking forward to a wife and kids and dirty diapers."
In 1979, McCord earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado. (During his senior year, he took a class in Deviant Behavior.) He moved to Arizona and found part-time work as a substitute teacher in Mesa.
In Mesa, McCord participated in Mormon group-counseling sessions during which he spoke of his homosexual past. But he didn't mention that part of his past in June 1982, when he applied with the state of Arizona for certification as a single adoptive parent. The state later placed a 15-year-old boy in his home.
Soon, however, McCord's luck soured. A Department of Economic Security intern who happened to be Mormon noticed his name on a list. She remembered his revelations during the group sessions and told her supervisor.
Experts agree pedophilia and homosexuality are not necessarily related. But DES officials were concerned about having a teenage boy living with a man who had concealed a key component of his background.
The agency ordered a psychological evaluation of McCord, which Brian Yee completed in January 1983. "This profile raises the possibility of sexual identification problems and overt homosexual activity," Dr. Yee concluded.
Incredibly, however, Yee suggested the relationship between McCord and the boy "not be disrupted at this time . . . in view of the positive emotional ties that have already formed."
But a few months later, McCord signed a "withdrawal of certificate" form and the agency moved the 15-year-old to another home. McCord needed to prove he really had turned over a new leaf. One way was to find himself a wife.
@body:David McCord and Barbara Rabe met at a training seminar she was giving for prospective adoptive parents. A single mother with a retarded and handicapped child of her own, Rabe had become deeply involved with Arizona's foster-parent program in the late 1970s.
The pair started dating in early 1983. As they got to know each other, McCord asked Rabe to scan his journals.
"He wrote about having had sex with about 200 boys," says Rabe, a therapist who recently opened a counseling center in Mesa. "I assumed it had been when he was a promiscuous teen. He said he had resolved his problems and I believed him. I was stupid."
McCord and Rabe got married in September 1983. He moved in with her natural child and two adopted foster children--each of them handicapped.
Mesa High School hired McCord as a math teacher in January 1984.
On the surface, his life was on the right track.
The McCords applied with DES in early 1984 for certification as an adoptive foster-care couple. Knowing of his past, the agency asked David McCord to undergo a second evaluation.
Psychologist Ronald Davis was impressed with McCord and his lifestyle. "Mr. McCord continues to show improvement in his life circumstances and emotional development," Davis wrote. "His marriage is viewed as a strength in terms of his ability to parent successfully."
After the rave review, DES placed a little boy with low intelligence and marked emotional problems--we'll call him Jeff--with the McCords.
To the world, the newlyweds were a loving, churchgoing couple who had embraced the task of caring for unwanted handicapped kids. The Phoenix Gazette published an article lauding the couple.
But the marriage was on the rocks.
"He wasn't the person I thought he was," Rabe says. "He was like a child, not a husband. He equated sex with anger and hate, not love. But I had no suspicions about him with the children until it was too late."
McCord was doing well at Mesa High. He always seemed to go the extra yard for students, tutoring them after hours, counseling them at their homes. Few realized until later that those students were nearly always boys.
The McCords separated in the summer of 1985. Barbara Rabe kept the children most of the time, but they also spent many nights at McCord's apartment. Then, in November 1985, his charade started to crack.
Six-year-old Jeff was having nightmares and acting up even more than usual. After he complained to Rabe about a sore penis (he wouldn't let her examine it), she spoke to her therapist. The therapist raised the possibility of sexual abuse and told her to seek help.
After a few sessions with a child psychologist, Jeff described incidents of anal and oral sex with his "Daddy--David McCord.
Rabe confronted McCord, who denied wrongdoing. Within days she filed for divorce.
Things moved quickly. Arizona law compelled Jeff's psychologist to tell DES officials what he knew. Rabe also told the boy's caseworker what was happening. The agency contacted the Mesa Police Department.
@body:A few days before Mesa police started their investigation, DES asked McCord to undergo yet another psychological profile. McCord apparently agreed to the exam because he was hoping to gain custody of Jeff in the divorce.
This time, the psychologist didn't buy McCord's protestations of innocence. Dr. Lawrence Allen concluded after the November 25, 1985, session:
"Mr. McCord presents certain characteristics that have been associated with individuals who sexually abuse children . . . It is a concern that he has steadfastly maneuvered himself in a situation giving him social contact with young children and adolescents."
Allen noted that "80 percent" of sex abuse charges brought during divorces prove to be unfounded. But the psychologist recommended no contact between 6-year-old Jeff and McCord until the allegations were sorted out.
Mesa sex-crimes detective Bill Richardson and a DES caseworker soon interviewed Jeff at his Mesa elementary school. Again, the boy described incidents of oral and anal sex with McCord.
A veteran of such cases, Richardson believed the boy.
"I made every effort to trip him up," says the ex-detective, who now works for a Phoenix law firm. "He hadn't been programmed by Mom to get Dad in trouble. Even before we had physical evidence, I had no doubt that this kid had been molested by his 'Dad.'"
Richardson also interviewed Rabe's two other adopted children, a 10-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy. Both children--who are physically and mentally handicapped--also described sexual contact with David McCord.
McCord came down to the station for an interview. He blamed the mess on his estranged wife, telling Richardson: "If I did this, I should be out of this world." As the investigation continued, Richardson and Barbara Rabe contacted Mesa High principal Bob Free separately to tell him what was happening. Free says he didn't know what to believe.
"I really wasn't sure," says Free, who is scheduled to retire in a few days as principal of Mesa Red Mountain High. "McCord told me his wife was making stuff up. There was reasonable doubt both ways."
Bob Free ended up doing nothing. Instead, the principal waited to see what the police would do.
But there were problems with the case from a law enforcement standpoint. The right to cross-examine one's accusers is basic in criminal law. County prosecutors became convinced that a trial judge would declare the children "incompetent" to testify. Without that testimony, the prosecutors believed there would be little chance of a conviction.
On May 5, 1986, Detective Richardson reluctantly closed his McCord file with a short memo: "There was no question as to the believability of the victims' statements."
McCord taught at Mesa High until the end of the 1985-86 school year, when he quit. "He made the decision," says principal Free. "He felt we were closing in on him and he wanted to get out, I think. I wouldn't have rehired him for the following year if I could have helped it."
Free says he "passed along information" about McCord to the school district's Personnel Office, then put the episode behind him. The next time he heard about McCord, Free says, was after the January 1991 arrest.
"The good-old-boy system works in a lot of places," Bernheim says. "It's like, 'Let's avoid any embarrassment. Let him resign. We don't want to ruin his career.'
"Like hell we don't."
@body:Barbara Rabe sued David McCord in May 1986. The suit alleged he had molested the three handicapped children repeatedly, causing "severe and permanent physical and psychological injuries."
Around that time, Rabe asked her church for help, appealing to local and state officials. Everyone, she says, turned the other cheek. In August 1986, a church official based in Salt Lake City wrote her a short letter.
"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.
South Mountain officials apparently never learned about the massive settlement, nor about McCord's sordid track record in Mesa. Rabe says she had no idea McCord was working at South Mountain until after his arrest. And Detective Richardson had retired.
Principal Diaz says he can't recall making any calls to Mesa about McCord's background; McCord's former boss at Mesa High, Bob Free, says he never got any.
@body:Ricky Deuel was a perfect victim for David McCord. The teen seemed star-crossed even before he had the misfortune of meeting McCord.
As David McCord had made news for "marrying" his male lover, Ricky Deuel too was a first at something. Born without a heart "clock," Ricky in 1973 became the youngest person in the nation to receive a pacemaker. He was two days old at the time.
Ricky survived despite the odds against him, but before his second birthday, a series of seizures put him back in the hospital. His folks say he "died" during surgery, but again he pulled through.
At age 7, Ricky underwent yet more surgery. After he survived, doctors told the Deuels that their oldest of three sons could live a long life.
But a traumatic event impeded Ricky's recovery. The Deuels caught a baby sitter sexually molesting the boy and learned it had been going on for some time.
"He was a very, very angry kid," says his father, Chick, a graphic artist for a national grocery wholesale firm. "He blamed us for his heart surgeries and for everything. He had been molested by people we had trusted. He started to run from us and from himself."
Ricky and his two younger brothers were exceptionally bright. A talented artist, Ricky did Picasso imitations that wowed friends and family. But he was forever getting into trouble.
As Ricky got older, his parents were increasingly unable to control him. When he was 14, they placed him in a psychiatric facility for emotionally troubled teens.
Upon Ricky's release after eighth grade, his parents enrolled him at South Mountain High. On Registration Day, Mary Deuel sought out David McCord on the recommendation of Ricky's new guidance counselor. "He said Mr. McCord was excellent with troubled kids," she recalls.
Ever the volunteer, McCord was taking ID photos of incoming students. Mary Deuel confided in him that her son was a molestation victim with emotional problems. McCord assured her he'd take the boy under his wing.
McCord selected Ricky as his "student assistant," which gave him access to the boy at the start and end of each school day. Ricky later said McCord had flirted with him almost from the start. The teacher brought up the earlier molesting and asked him how he would feel if it happened again.
Soon after Christmas break in early 1989, Ricky said, McCord seduced him in a classroom closet after school. Sex with the obese teacher became part of Ricky's school day.
"I was one of the biggest troublemakers at South," Ricky later testified. "Mr. McCord bailed me out several times. I was under the impression that if I did not keep up the activity, I would be thrown out of school."
Things were extremely tense at the Deuel household during this time. Ricky came and went as he pleased. His grades were terrible. The Deuels threatened to put him in another psychiatric facility if he didn't come around. They were at a loss.
In desperation, they turned to David McCord.
"We became very close talking about Ricky and his problems," Mary Deuel recalls. "He showed a great interest in Rick. We trusted him completely."
In the summer of 1989, the Deuels allowed Ricky to live with McCord after the family's psychologists met with the teacher and his second wife--McCord had married yet another woman who worked with handicapped kids. McCord billed himself as a solid family man with great interest and experience in caring for troubled youth.
Unsure of his sexuality and fearful of being sent to another psychiatric facility, Ricky continued to keep the truth from his folks.
But in December 1989, a teenager confided in a Maricopa County sheriff's detective. The boy said that a South Mountain teacher named McCord was having sex with a kid named Ricky.
The detective, Ken Colbert, says he wrote a memo to the Phoenix Police Department and followed up with a call.
Phoenix police detective Michael Sechez says he contacted South Mountain High and was told a Mr. McCord was on staff. But Colbert's memo had referred to a Ricky Devel, spelling the name with a "v" instead of a "u." The person Sechez spoke with--he can't recall whom--said the school had no one there by that name.
The popular McCord continued to teach in the spring of 1990 at South Mountain. But not everyone at the school was thrilled with him. Sylvia Babbitt, who teaches English as a second language at the school, had a male Foreign Exchange student removed from McCord's home during the 1989-90 school year.
"The boy was very unhappy there, but he didn't say why," Babbitt says. "I didn't have any evidence that anything was going on, just a hunch. And so I worked to get him out of there. Mr. McCord was not very pleased with me."
The McCord "investigation" lay dormant until the fall of 1990. By then, Ricky had transferred to Metro Tech--part of the Phoenix Union school district. Ricky went by bus each morning from South Mountain to Metro Tech, where he showed an aptitude for learning sign language. His contacts with McCord were far less frequent than they'd been.
In October 1990--nine months and at least three new victims later--Detective Sechez followed up the original tip about McCord with a visit to South Mountain.
"I had been really, really bogged down with 50 or 60 cases in which I had a victim for sure," the detective says by way of explanation. "When the school year started, I went down there to see if I could close the case down--see if McCord was a good guy with a bad rumor on him or whatever."
Co-principal Rene Diaz told Sechez that a Ricky Deuel was attending Metro Tech. The pair met with Ricky, who denied the allegations. The investigation seemed to end with the boy's denial.
A month later, in November 1990, Ricky wrote Diaz requesting a second meeting. Diaz and Sechez met with Ricky at South Mountain. Ricky said he wanted to tell the truth now.
Detective Sechez turned the case over to fellow detective Mariano Albano, who questioned other possible McCord victims that Ricky had named.
One student recalls McCord would always say he was "the god of A's and F's," a clear implication of sex-for-grades. Three other boys admitted to being seduced by the teacher. Others said they had resisted his advances. None had told their parents or school officials until after Ricky Deuel broke the case open.
Ricky went home on Christmas Eve 1990 and told his folks the truth about McCord. It was the first they had heard of it.
The police didn't try to interview McCord yet. On January 7, 1991--the first day back to school after Christmas break--Rene Diaz asked him to come to the front office. There, Detective Albano arrested McCord on 49 counts of sexual conduct with minors.
McCord denied everything--he maintains his innocence to this day--and asked to see a lawyer.
@body:Despite a withering cross-examination, Ricky Deuel held up well as the state's main witness at McCord's trial. The defense didn't present much of a case--McCord didn't testify--deciding instead to try to create "reasonable doubt" in the jury's collective mind.
The jury convicted McCord of sex crimes last January 23.
But this story has few happy endings.
Ricky's girlfriend, Missy, had become pregnant with his child during McCord's trial. But the pressures on Ricky had damaged their once-tight relationship, Missy wrote Judge Norman Hall before McCord was sentenced.
"Ricky withdrew emotionally and sexually from me only because of the many times David McCord raped him," she wrote. "As far as I'm concerned, our relationship may get better, but it will never be the same."
Ricky and Missy were living with the Deuels after the trial ended earlier this year. Though McCord was locked up, Ricky remained tight as a drum. And his health was slipping.
Doctors tested him in early March and indicated he would have to undergo heart surgery. A few days before the operation, Ricky recorded his "last will." He went to church for the first time in years and received Communion after a priest heard his confession. Later, he told his mom he was ready to die.
But he pulled through the surgery and went home to recover. Despite their troubles, Ricky and Missy started to talk marriage. Ricky's parents opposed the union--but not for the usual reasons.
"I told him he'd lose his medical insurance if they got married," Chick Deuel says. "I said to go in the backyard and say a prayer together and we'd consider them married."
Still, the young couple started to make plans to go to Vegas. Chick Deuel was laid up at home with a back injury and he and Ricky spent many hours chatting together.
"Rick said he realized he didn't have to explode at us anymore," his father says. "We really enjoyed each other finally for who we were."
Then, last April 13, Ricky Deuel died of heart failure.
The Deuels buried their son three days before Judge Hall sentenced 45-year-old McCord to life in prison. Ricky was buried with his pacemaker still running inside him. The machine had kept him alive, he'd said during his "last will" tape. This was a way of saying thank you.
Missy gave birth to a healthy daughter, Ariana Lanice, last July 8.
@body:South Mountain principal Art Lebowitz noticed something cruelly ironic after Redbook named his school one of the nation's 50 best high schools last year.
"Another story in the magazine caught my eye," he says. "It was about how to detect child molesters. I just had to shake my head."
The Phoenix Union High School District quietly made sweeping changes in its teacher-hiring policies in the aftermath of the McCord fiasco.
"We have shored up its hiring policies considerably," Lebowitz says. "We are obligated now to contact a previous employer and get positive recommendations. There are no loopholes. Obviously, we don't want a McCord situation to happen here again."
That heartfelt sentiment, of course, was of little solace to Ricky Deuel. Shortly before he died, he wrote a letter to Judge Hall.
"I'm 18 and have my whole future ahead of me, all of which will be tainted by him," Ricky wrote. "I have a child on the way. How will I react when it comes time to place him or her in school, especially knowing what can happen there?
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