A Forest Hill Church Preschool teacher has been arrested for multiple child sex crimes in Richmond, Virginia. The 26-year-old male is charged with aggravated sexual battery of a child, and making child pornography. Upon investigation, the Department of Social Services (DSS) discovered that the facility which employed him did not run criminal background checks when hiring staff, and violated 8 other state standards.
Matiko Pierce was taken into police custody Tuesday, arraigned Wednesday, and denied bond due to the nature of his crimes. Not many details have been released about the victims, but this Forest Hill Preschool teacher worked with children 5 and under. It is alleged that he was making child pornography at the child care facility throughout the entire month of March.
Law enforcement are still seeking details and have asked anyone with information regarding this case to contact Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000, or Detective J. Mills at 804-646-6734. The hope is that what happened at Forest Hill Preschool will be fully revealed in order to prosecute Pierce and prevent further harm against children. But this is only half of the story, being that the facility in question failed to meet multiple DSS criteria.
The DSS report brought attention to the fact that the Forest Hill Preschool administration even admitted that they knew they weren’t performing proper background checks. This is becoming a growing issue across many schools — public and private — as teacher shortages are being experienced at one of the highest levels in U.S. history. Schools have grown more and more desperate to fill vacant positions. This has led to massive hiring campaigns which include, sign-on bonuses, attendance bonuses, and a lack of background checks.
Even so, the Forest Hill Preschool situation proves just how important background checks are even when teachers are scarce. Not only that but, a lack of proper safety checks has been an ongoing issue for years. Back in 2016, USA Today graded each state by how well schools perform background checks and the data was alarming. While many schools did a slight background check, many failed to check state and federal records, and did not share misconduct information. Depending on the area, schools that fire a teacher for sexual misconduct are not legally required to alert other schools of the incident. There is no federal law that mandates this, and not all states have policies which require it, so some teachers have been shuffled around the system after harming children.
This is also true of school staff members. Most states have stricter teacher background checks than they do for other education employees. This includes bus drivers, janitors, secretaries, and other various workers that children come in contact with on a regular basis. If the Forest Hill Preschool wasn’t executing proper background checks on teachers, there is no telling how many of their other employees are a risk to the children in their care.
The Forest Hill Preschool situation led to just one of many child sexual abuse cases involving teachers this year, but the charges are some of the most horrific. Pierce’s next court date is set for June 6th where more details are expected to be revealed. For now, the children involved are safe and their families are awaiting justice.