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Teacher Troubles: Former Students Tell Their Sexual Misconduct Stories

A group of nine students came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Wendell Nibbs since 2004.

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    "When I first went, I liked the school. I made a lot of friends," is how a former student remembers the good times at Brownsville Middle School. We will refer to her as Riley.

    Riley says she loved sports when she was a teenager, from basketball to track and field.

    Her passion led her to coach Wendell Nibbs, a gym teacher in his 40s who had been working in the school since 2003.

    "When I first met him, I thought he was a regular PE teacher," she said.

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    But Riley says things changed when Nibbs started driving her home after track practice.

    "He'd touch my thighs and try kiss on me," she said, adding it escalated to other things.

    She hadn't told anyone about her experience until earlier this year when she told police her former teacher raped her in his office when she was 14 years old. She told them they had "sexual intercourse" for over a 10-month period in his "office/classroom" during the 2013-14 school year.

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    Riley gets emotional when asked why she didn't report it before.

    "He said that if I was to tell anybody what happened, he'd kill me," she responded.

    Nibbs, who is now behind bars awaiting trial, is facing multiple felony charges involving Riley and other former students. He's pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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    His attorney has repeatedly declined our requests for an interview or comment, citing the pending criminal case.

    Riley is the latest student in a group of nine to come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Nibbs since 2004.

    As NBC 6 Investigators previously reported, the first complaints were filed the same school year Nibbs started working in Brownsville and he was temporarily removed from the classroom.

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    Three former students, who attended Brownsville together, are joining Riley in an exclusive interview with the NBC 6 Investigators. We've also changed their names to protect their identities.

    Like Riley, all of them described a similar evolution in their relationship with Nibbs, from a "nice" and trusted teacher, to the person who repeatedly took advantage of them. Their allegations ranged from inappropriate comments to multiple instances of sexual assault.

    "He would ask me to stay after class," said Jen, who met Nibbs when she was in the eighth grade.

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    She didn't want to go into details, but she previously told police he raped her inside his office. Nibbs is not facing criminal charges in her case.

    "I felt that I was alone," Jen told us when asked about her experience.

    The other students shared disturbing details.

    "He would make inappropriate comments about my shape, my sexuality," said Kayla, who attended Brownsville during that same time period. "There was a time where he physically touched me in an inappropriate spot."

    "He was making me have sex with him occasionally," said another former student we're calling Ana. When asked how often this happened, she responded, "the whole eighth grade year."

    Her case is the one that led to Nibb's resignation and arrest in November 2017.

    Ana says she initially denied having a relationship with Nibbs because he warned her about coming forward.

    "I denied it like he told me and she (an MDPS detective) told me that nobody was going to hurt me or anything and that I was safe," she recalled. "I was crying and I told her everything."

    All the incidents described by the former students happened in school - nearly all inside his office.

    "A repeated pattern"

    Attorney Aaron Karger and Pedro Echarte III are now representing the students in separate civil lawsuits filed against the Miami-Dade School Board, claiming they should have done more to protect their clients.

    "It is really an egregious ball dropping," Karger said.

    "After there were subsequent red flags and allegations, they (district) failed to look back at the prior allegations and it's clear from the documents, it's clear from the records that we've obtained and the depositions," Echarte added.

    They say the district conducted "limited" investigations and repeatedly failed to "look at the big picture."

    "There was no monitoring. There were no efforts to verify this," Echarte said.

    The attorneys say those failures led to more victims.

    "I think overtime Wendell Nibbs became emboldened, he became more brazen," Karger said.

    Karger says they "strongly encouraged" other victims and witnesses to come forward.

    An NBC 6 Investigation from November 2018 found Nibbs was accused at least seven times and cleared repeatedly of sexual misconduct while teaching at Brownsville. He denied doing anything wrong during the investigations. But in 2016, investigators believed an accuser for the first time: Kayla.

    According to a police affidavit, Kayla's case was then referred to a Miami-Dade Schools Police detective for further investigation due to concerns that Nibbs "may have engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with other students."

    Records show Nibbs kept teaching for months after that until he was removed from the classroom and arrested the following year.

    Kayla is frustrated about the school's response to her case.

    "I felt angry. I felt betrayed by the school," she said. "I felt it was not fair that he was still in there."

    According to a police affidavit, it was Kayla who tipped off MDSP investigators about Nibbs' alleged sexual relationship with Ana. She told police she saw intimate photos they've allegedly exchanged through a messenger app called "KIK."

    Ana confirmed Kayla's accounts.

    The district declined to discuss Nibb's case citing pending litigation but has denied wrongdoing in court filings.

    In a statement released earlier this year, a spokesperson said the allegations are "clearly reprehensible" and that school police detectives were able to locate unknown victims who had been previously afraid to come forward.

    "We will continue to provide whatever assistance is necessary to ensure swift prosecution of the individual charged with these disturbing accusations," the spokesperson said, adding the school has implemented new protocols to investigate teacher misconduct.

    Nibb's Criminal Case

    The NBC 6 Investigators obtained a police interview with a student who came forward last year. In it, she claims Nibbs forced her to have sex with him twice inside of school.

    "All I know is that he put my pants down," she told a MDSP detective while describing one of the incidents. "I didn't say no. I totally froze to be honest."

    She told the detective Nibbs took her virginity.

    "He was literally my first person," she said.

    She said Nibbs called her when he was temporarily released on house arrest.

    "He was calling to check on me to make sure I didn't say anything," she said. "He was like, you are my girl, I got you."

    But she did anyway. Her testimony is now part of the evidence being used in the criminal case against Nibbs, along with photos he allegedly took of her.

    They're also investigating if Nibbs the father of her child, something the student can be heard initially denying in the audio interview.

    The student, who is a minor, is also being represented by Karger and Echarte. They have recently filed a lawsuit against the district on her behalf.

    Nibbs was arrested again this year following the student and Riley's allegations.

    The case file being used in the criminal case against him also includes letters of support from Nibbs' family, friends and former colleagues. In the letters, Nibbs is described as a "well-respected," "caring," "trustworthy" and a "role model" who was wrongfully accused. Nibbs' wife wrote a letter that describes the accusers as students who were failing his class and didn't follow the rules. It's something Nibbs also told school investigators when questioned. At least one student, "Kayla" admitted in an interview with school investigators that she was failing Nibb's class and was sent to the principal's office for cursing at him once.

    Moving Forward

    "The pain will never escape my body."

    With these words, Jen describes the aftermath of the alleged abuse she experienced in a poem.

    "It's hard to hold myself together when you hurt so much," Jen writes. "What I want to say or asked him is what caused you to hurt little girls like us."

    Jen told NBC 6 Investigators she has been struggling since.

    "It let me depressed for a while and I didn't know how to feel," she said. "Sometimes I want to kill myself."

    The other students say they have also struggled, from seeking counseling to having nightmares.

    "I can't sleep at night," Riley said. "I cry myself to sleep half of the time."

    "All these girls have endured unfathomable trauma in different forms, in different fashion, different time periods," Echarte said. "They will live with this the rest of their lives."

    For these young women, sharing their stories wasn't easy. But they hope they can empower others to do the same.

    "I hope that we all get justice, that we all feel better and we get closure," Jen said. "It's OK to speak out."

    "Don't be afraid to tell what's happening to you," Riley added.

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