A Mother Says a Teacher Molested Her Daughter. She Was Eight. - NBC 6 South Florida
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A Mother Says a Teacher Molested Her Daughter. She Was Eight.

The teacher had previously been fired from another school after similar allegations

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Mother Alleges Broward Teacher Molested Her Daughter

    A mother told NBC 6 Investigator Willard Shepard a teacher molested her 8-year-old daughter. He had been previously fired from another school after similar allegations.

    (Published Friday, Feb. 1, 2019)

    WATCH PART 2 OF THIS STORY ON THE NBC 6 NEWS FRIDAY NIGHT AT 11 PM.

    For nearly three years, Christopher Falzone taught students at Renaissance Charter School in Cooper City. 

    "All kids loved him, even my daughter," said a mother who asked not to be identified. We'll call her Monica.

    But Monica says Falzone betrayed the love and trust of his students.

    "When he felt that he gained that trust, that's when he started the abuse."

    She says Falzone molested her daughter more than 20 times during the 2017-2018 school year.

    "He would sit her down and he put his hand under her skirt," she said.

    "She would try to find an excuse to move away but he would call her again and again and again," Monica added.

    Falzone was arrested in August 2018 after a different girl, who was 10 years old at the time, accused him of molesting her at a summer camp.

    The girl told police Falzone "would lift her shirt, put his hand inside her shorts and move his hand around on her buttocks and back." 

    According to a police affidavit, Falzone admitted having private conversations with the girl on Facebook Messenger and whispering "I love you" into her ear. But the former teacher told police he did not remember touching her.

    Prosecutors filed more charges when four students from Renaissance came forward, including Monica's daughter.

    They told police Falzone called them his "special students." According to the arrest report, he would sit them in the back of his classroom while he played videos for the rest of the class.

    With the lights turned off and the other students facing the screen, they told police Falzone would fondle them.

    "It's just horrible, I don't have any other words," Monica said while fighting back tears. "It's your angel. The place that you expect for them to be more safe."

    Falzone has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of sexual battery and molestation. 

    "This is the worst nightmare for a parent," said Monica. "You wouldn't think that this would happen to you or your family."

    Falzone's personnel file from Broward County Public Schools shows families had complained about Falzone before.

    In May 2014, he was fired and "disqualified from future employment" in the Broward school district after multiple girls said he touched them inappropriately. At the time, he was a substitute teacher at Sheridan Hills Elementary.

    In a statement, a student wrote, "Mr. Falzone keeps going in our shirts and pants."

    Another student said he touched her butt in front of her classmates.

    "He would like to put us in a position where no could see us," she told a detective from the school police.

    She also told the detective that Falzone touched her private parts and kissed her neck once when she was alone with him in the classroom. 

    According to the district's investigative report, the girls were in 5th and 3rd grade.

    Broward County Public Schools started investigating the case in the summer of 2013 and removed Falzone from the "approved substitute teacher's list" immediately. 

    Falzone denied the allegations in a lengthy letter he wrote to the district. In it, he said that he was "devastated" and that his dream of becoming a teacher had been "tarnished" by students who "possibly out of jealousy for Mr. Falzone's attention" accused him of inappropriate acts.

    He went on to write, "I have chosen that, going forward, I will never hug a child in a school setting."

    Hollywood Police investigated the complaints but no criminal charges were filed. 

    Three of the four parents who complained told Hollywood Police they didn't want the department to pursue criminal charges.

    An assistant state attorney with the Sex Crime/Child Abuse Unit informed the other parent who did want charges filed that they "declined prosecution" without getting into details why.

    A year after being fired from Broward County Public Schools, Falzone was back in the classroom teaching young students at Renaissance, a charter school located just 15 minutes away from the school where he was fired. 

    "It's really one of the worst examples that I've seen of failing to protect kids," said Jeff Herman, who is representing three families suing the charter school, including Monica.

    "How is it that a teacher at a public school can be accused of molesting kids, credibly, and they are allowed to teach anywhere?"

    In a statement, Renaissance said its "schools conduct thorough background checks and all applicants must be cleared by the district prior to us offering a position to any employee." Broward Public Schools would not comment on if they informed Renaissance that they fired him and why.

    But the district said charter schools have their own hiring practices and that they only help them with criminal history checks.

    Christine Rodriguez, whose daughter was in Falzone's class at Renaissance, told the NBC 6 Investigators she learned about the teacher's past and told the charter school's principal months before he was arrested.

    "I explained that my friend had contacted me and told me about the molestation allegations," she said during a Skype interview from her new home out of state. "I begged him, please do an investigation, I'm sure you can contact local authorities, find out if there was ever a report made, something, just do something."

    But Rodriguez says the principal didn't. 

    "Something could have been done further and I feel it was ignored."

    Rodriguez says that meeting was in October 2017.

    "He finished the entire school year and, as we alleged, that's when most of the molestation began," said Herman.

    Rodriguez says she grew suspicious of Falzone after he sent her family a long and "odd" email about her daughter, who was 8 years old at the time.

    He was "...basically stating that he just loved having our daughter in his class, that she is the one that keeps him sane," she recalled. "He was giving her lots of praise, a little over excessive in our opinion."

    Then, Rodriguez says she witnessed Falzone hugging her daughter "in a very passionate way" during a teacher-parent conference.

    "He wasn't letting go and so I actually felt uncomfortable," she said.

    Rodriguez says she eventually took her daughter out of Falzone's class to protect her.

    "My daughter has even said, had I stayed in his class, it would have been me," she said.

    Renaissance wouldn't comment about Rodriguez's allegations or any details in the case because of the pending lawsuits.

    For Monica, the school simply dropped the ball. She says her daughter is still going to therapy.

    "This didn't need to happen," she said. "You let these girls being there in a classroom with a child abuser."

    She is one of Herman's clients.

    Falzone is now behind bars pending trial. His lawyer didn't respond to our multiple requests for comment.

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