Teacher Who Confessed to Abusing Boys in US Found Working in Essex School
By Robert Booth
November 23, 2017
|Stephen Jackson, formerly Stephen Myers, managed to adopt two boys but had both taken away from him by US authorities due to concerns about their welfare. Photograph: Handout|
A teacher who has faced multiple allegations of child sexual abuse in the US and confessed to molesting schoolboys has been uncovered working in a secondary school in Essex, the Guardian can reveal.
Stephen Jackson, 72, taught English to 11- to 13-year-olds at Tendring technology college this term despite previously confessing to police in California that he engaged in sexual acts with children.
It has also emerged that he previously worked for two years at a school in south London without being discovered.
Jackson joined the staff of the 2,000-pupil Tendring college, in Frinton-on-Sea, in June this year. However, he was fired after a fortnight of lessons this term after Essex police raised concerns, having received “intelligence concerning a teacher working in the Tendring area”.
He is believed to have left the country, possibly travelling to Venezuela.
From 2009-2011 Jackson also taught 11- to 14-year-old boys at the Knights academy in Bromley, run by the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation. The school told the Guardian it had carried out “all the legally required checks”.
In 2012, Jackson changed his name from Stephen Myers, which is how he was known at Knights.
Police reports from Santa Cruz, California, seen by the Guardian reveal that in 1996 Jackson admitted being attracted to 14- to 16-year-old boys, that he touched a boy’s penis on a camping trip, molested a pupil aged 15 or 16, and slept in the same bed as one of his students.
Furthermore, California police received evidence suggesting he sexually assaulted his four-year-old adopted son who was subsequently removed from his care.
The Guardian has also spoken to three men who say they were abused by Jackson when they were children.
“He liked to do back massages and then he had me turn around and said ‘I’m going to give you a different kind of massage’,” said Jon Warner, 52, who complained to police about the alleged molestation in a hotel room in 1977 when he was 12. “I hadn’t hit puberty yet and wasn’t into it and he knew that and it was really uncomfortable. He didn’t care. He asked me to massage him. He wanted me to touch him there.”
Tendring college dismissed Jackson on 27 September but said it had not told parents about his past because it had no child protection issues with him while he was there.
Knights said it had no record of any concerns being raised about Jackson before or during his time at the academy. The school declined to comment when asked if it had informed parents.
Jackson was never prosecuted in the US, partly because complaints came after the statute of limitations had expired and also because some of the alleged crimes happened across state borders or abroad, police in Santa Cruz said.
In 2011, shortly after he stopped teaching in south London, Jackson emailed a friend to confess that earlier in his life he had “feared I was a paedophile”, that he had been sexually attracted to a 13-year-old boy, and that he had sought help from “an expert in sexual deviation issues”.
|Haberdashers’ Aske’s Knights academy, in Bromley. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian|
Jackson said in the email that after three years of therapy “I discovered I was not a paedophile”.
The ease with which he found teaching work in the UK shocked a US-based support group for his suspected victims.
“It is mind-boggling that a teacher with multiple allegations of molesting his students, a confession to police detectives that he molested boys, and a legal name change in 2012, continues to find jobs working with children,” said Connie Durant, a former colleague of Jackson’s. The support group she runs has spoken to 13 men who allege Jackson (then known as Myers) assaulted them when they were children.
“Despite these allegations, he has evaded charges and convictions primarily because of issues of jurisdiction and statutes of limitations,” Durant said.
The case is likely to alarm UK child protection experts, coming one year after a serious case review into how the American teacher William Vahey found work at the private Southbank international school in London, despite having been convicted for child molestation in California. Vahey went on to abuse at least 60 boys at Southbank.
Vahey preyed on his victims during school trips. Earlier in his career, Jackson ran a “traveling school” that involved taking pupils on summer-long trips around the US and abroad, during which he is alleged to have molested boys.
Michael Muldoon, the principal at Tendring college, said the school had been “monitoring [Jackson] very closely” because his marking, timekeeping and teaching ability seemed poor. Essex police contacted the local authority “in regard to previous child protection issues” and he was fired.
“Mr Jackson’s details and references were supplied to us by Red (Recruitment for Education) in June 2017,” said Muldoon. “The references were very positive and covered teaching roles in the USA and the UK from 1984. We take our safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously at Tendring technology college and have revisited all of our safer recruitment practices. We are confident that these were, and continue to be, robust.”
Jackson’s teaching references were provided by Knights and from Yeshiva Toras Chaim, a Jewish boys school in Denver, Colorado. Toras Chaim was told about Jackson’s previous molestation admissions by Durant in January, and informed about the 1996 police report. The yeshiva did not respond to the Guardian’s inquiries.
Sian Shrimpton-Davies, director of Red, said: “Mr Jackson’s references were taken up directly with the referees and shared with the school; none expressed any concerns about him working with children. We also received police clearances from the FBI and Colorado Bureau of Investigation showing that Mr Jackson had no criminal record.”
In 1995 Jackson adopted a four-year-old Romanian boy, who was removed from his care in January 1996 as a result of investigations into Jackson’s behaviour. A July 1996 police report said that the boy had made several references about Jackson touching him sexually to his new adoptive parents.
In around 2000, Jackson adopted another son, this time from Ukraine, who was removed from his care in 2002. This came after Jackson resigned from a school in Massachusetts following an allegation he asked a male pupil to show him his nipples and invited him to his house, where he had a hot-tub. Though Jackson denied the allegation, Massachusetts social services told reporters it only removed children “when we feel their immediate safety is in danger”.
Jackson did not respond to the Guardian’s attempts to contact him via email or phone.