The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 26, 2013

EPS: Background checks done on all school personnel

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A former Enid Public Schools bus driver, coach and substitute teacher is charged with numerous felonies, including lewd molestation, use of a computer to commit a felony and forcible sodomy.

Charges against Patrick Leon Watts, 48, stem from incidents that took place both before he lived in Enid and after moving here.

Watts worked for Enid Public Schools as a substitute teacher during the 2009-2010 school year.

During the 2010-11 school year, Watts was a coach for middle school wrestling and assistant coach for high school football. He also was a substitute teacher.

During the 2011-2012 school year, he was assistant coach for high school football and wrestling, and substitute teacher.

He started the current school year as an assistant coach for middle school wrestling and a bus driver. His employment with the school district came to an end when police alerted the district a week and a half ago that two alleged victims of molestations had made reports to Kansas police.

“Since the initial phone call, we have fully cooperated with EPD in their investigation,” said Amber Fitzgerald, human resources and communications director for EPS.

Fitzgerald said background checks are done on all full-time employees and coaches.

“In addition to a national background check with fingerprints, district supervisors also carefully review candidates’ references, education and work experience,” Fitzgerald said. “This includes both full-time employees and adjunct coaches.”

About 300 people — mostly parents — volunteer in the schools each year. They help in a number of ways, including assisting teachers, helping with holiday parties, copying papers, helping with fundraisers and being guest speakers, Fitzgerald said. Each is required to complete a volunteer application, which includes a background check, and either attend a volunteer orientation or meet with the principal about the importance of school safety and confidentiality. Each must check in and out at the school office.

If a potential volunteer has committed a felony, violent offense or offense against a child, they are rejected, Fitzgerald said.

After Enid police contacted the school district about Watts, district employees were reminded that they have a legal obligation to report abuse and neglect of children, Fitzgerald said.

“Although the allegations involving Watts are not related to school activities at this time, we reviewed with district staff all policies and procedures and worked with families about concerns or questions,” Fitzgerald said.

According to the affidavit filed in Garfield County District Court, Watts told Enid police he previously volunteered at Wichita South High School.

However, Lori Gold, secretary to the principal at Wichita South High School, said she had checked back about 20 years and Watts was not a volunteer there.

Dan Dillon, spokesman for the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s office, said he could find no cases that had ever been filed against Watts in Wichita.