Pedophiles Among US

child-abuse30183278This is an extremely unpleasant topic but in the light of recent developments, ISR believes it merits discussion among the international teaching community.

It has been recently discovered that a known pedophile had managed to elude authorities and work his away around the world teaching and molesting young boys aged 12-14. William Vahey, a 64-year old American and International Educator, worked in more than 7 international schools during his career.  At his most recent school in Nicaragua, he was exposed as a pedophile after his house maid stole a pin drive from his home and discovered vile images.  She delivered the pin drive to Vahey’s employer and when confronted, Vahey confessed that he had drugged and molested at least 90 boys while on overnight field trips. The dates accompanying the images on the pin drive corresponded to the dates of field trips with his students.

Police records show that in 1970, while studying for a teaching degree, Vahey was jailed for 90 days after pleading guilty to molesting boys at a swimming pool where he worked as swim instructor in California.  He was ordered to register as a sex offender for life, but after graduating from college in 1972 neglected to sign the Register. The more than 7 schools that employed him during his teaching career all failed to find records showing time served for his crimes. One International school explained they had vetted Vahey back to 1985 when he taught in the United States, and assumed that that particular school would have vetted his even earlier history.  They looked no further into his past. Vahey had slipped through the cracks.

William Vahey took his own life rather than face trial. His wife, Jean Vahey, was superintendent of Escuela Campo Alegre in Venezuela during the same period as Vahey taught there between 2002 and 2009. Jean Vahey was also Executive Director of European Council of International Schools. She has in no way been implicated.  A statement from the ECIS Board of Trustees can be found at the following link –

Unfortunately, we find that the case of William Vahey is not an isolated incident on the international education circuit. An ISR Review reported, “…it was learned that Kwangju Foreign School has also received a certain notoriety from the fact that the pedophile, Christopher Paul Neil, was a middle school teacher at the school just prior to his capture in Thailand, in October of 2007. He was quite popular with students and staff members, and it came as a complete surprise to everyone when his photo appeared on CNN during Interpol’s manhunt for him. Korean Immigration has now gotten stricter about checking the backgrounds of people wanting to teach in Korea, because of this incident…”. 

A Google search will uncover more than we’d like to confront. Our question is this: How can we, as International educators, protect our children from such abuse? How can schools uncover and expose those who would do harm? Whether you’re an administrator, a school Board official, or a teacher in an international setting, what is the cure for this insidious treachery that causes harm to children of the world?

Go to More of the Worst Among Us
Alumni Accuse International School of Child Abuse Cover-Up

50 Responses to Pedophiles Among US

  1. Administrative training says:

    Obviously Dr. Doll made the wrong choice of allowing and helping Vahey to leave the country. At administrative meetings it needs to be mandatory that administrators get training on what to do if they discover a pedophile is working at their school. Obviously, Dr. Doll missed this all important training. Dr. Doll should be prosecuted for aiding a criminal!


  2. There are too many bad administrators out there! says:

    I think we also need to look at Dr. Doll’s response to the situation. Dr. Doll “allowed” a pedophile to leave the country. Then she called the authorities. What does this say about Dr. Doll? I think Dr. Doll should be prosecuted for allowing a pedophile(remember Dr. Doll saw the thumb drive with the photos) to leave the country AND helping him leave the country. Dr. Doll responded as if she was protecting this man vs taking the obvious and appropriate action to detain him and call the embassy. Dr. Doll used absolutely horrible judgement, I don’t think Dr. Doll should be working in ANY school in any capacity. I think her teaching and administrative license should be revoked! Any administrator who “aids” a pedophile should not be working in education.


  3. anonymous says:

    This article isn’t even the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Messing in the sandbox of an international school is fairly bold behavior where one is likely to be at least suspected of impropriety. Imagine how many indigent, poor, and socially powerless children are targets of these seemingly rich, happy, foreign and anonymous predators! These children have no social recourse, no one to help them, just a memory of shame.


    • mae says:

      Where did Vahey go to college? Are you sure he graduated? Did he ever get an American teaching credential? It appears that he never had a teachers certificate but he managed to get a principals certificate from New Jersey in 1986. How did this happen? You can not get a principals certificate without having a teachers certificate. You can not get a principals certificate without doing an internship in the state where you received your certificate. Did New Jersey just hand the guy a principals certificate? One more thing: if Vahey actually did coursework to get his principals certificate, was it online? He was working at Saudi Aramco at the time. I do not see how he could work in the mideast and do his studies, and complete an internship, and do the testing that goes along with getting a principals certificate.


  4. Anonymous says:

    There are fairly straightforward procedures for reporting suspected sexual abuse among colleagues working with children. They, of course, need to be clearly issued in international schools. As educators we have to strike a balance between being responsive and responsible regarding our professional and morale commitment to the safety of children, and avoiding creating school atmospheres of “pedo hysteria” that inhibit our role as human service workers and create paralyzing conditions of suspicion and anxiety. There must be adequate safeguards of due process for both victims and the accused. While pedophilia is a contemporary problem of apparent growing importance, certainly growing attention, and deserving of effective intervention; I sometimes wonder if the media incites a level of crisis panic that is beyond the true magnitude of the problem, and, then, we as professionals responsible for young people develop a sort “crisis alert” beyond the appropriate. We must be careful to insure that rumor, innuendo, or even personal vendettas don’t take the place of facts, evidence, and due process in our workplace. This is such an emotional topic, (as to some degree it should be), that we can quickly lose perspective and be so ready to “defend” the helpless and “punish” the culprit, that we lose sight of balanced inquiry. We need to be very clear about evidence, definitions, and established legal procedures before we start out on a mission of righteousness. Perhaps more than any other possible crime, just the suspicion of pedophilia expressed toward an educator, independently of its merit, can have potentially devastating effects on lives and careers. We need to stay rational, clear, and fair minded, while we are, of course, being adequately accountable for the protection of children,


    • Lynn Kolber says:

      I think that schools owe it to the children to err on the side of caution. I am sure what we see in the media is the tip of the iceberg. For every 1 case that sees the light of day there are many, many more that never do.
      It is imperative that suspicions of abuse are investigate appropriately by the authorities and not tainted by the school themselves investigating.
      The sentiment expressed in your email is why there are often so many children molested for so long by the same person.


    • Cass says:

      Of course.


    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for even handed comments. I have known of many teachers whose lives and careers were ruined by false accusations, at the same time protecting our children is of the utmost importance.
      As a single mother of a young boy, I want everyone who might be an authority in his life to be vetted to the highest degree. I do not want to take chances. As someone working with a good teacher and a good man who just lost his father and his father’s reputation (the son of the man in the article), only to be faced with the hysteria of fearful parents at the school (because if his father molested kids then OF COURSE he too is a molester and not at all a man whose whole life has just been split apart), I want to be certain that people THINK before they accuse.
      It is a delicate, and difficult balance to keep.


    • Anonymous says:

      I know a teacher who was ruined by false accusations. He refuses to work as a teacher ever again. The accusers were vicious and wanted to destroy not only his work but his family also. There was no evidence to suggest he did anything inappropriate.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Very important issue, and great dialogue!! I think this issue is just beginning to come into its own in international schools. It is also part of an increased global concern for human trafficking and sexual predators. We, as educators, have to find a balance between insuring the safety of children and not (unconsciously) contributing to an intense “pedo scare” atmosphere in international schools which inhibits and paralyzes effective, caring human service. We, of course, must determinedly work to manage and respond to this problem, yet we must also be reasonable and balanced, and very clear about definitions, boundaries, protections, and safeguards, for both the victim and the accused. Again, this I believe involves striking a balance between effective systems of protection, detection, and intervention regarding abuse, and standing vigil against the potential for false accusations, hysteria, and inferred guilt without due process. A complex issue which will require increasingly (and hopefully well-informed) attention from international educators in the years ahead.


  6. Let me just say that MANY international schools drop the ball big time with doing any sort of authentic background checks for the teachers they hire. At best the schools that we have been at (top tier by the way) ask for you to offer up a copy of a background check from where you were. Well, that sounds good but why do they not do them on their end to avoid tampering? Furthermore there are people who (in the USA for example) that can have arrests in one state but not have it show up in other states where they may hold (or switch) their teaching license to. It also seems that the substitutes are rarely screened. The international school need to do much more to make sure the teachers they hire are decent. We all know that 99% are amazing and then you have this guy……


    • Let me add to my statement above that this state by state problem is why a national check should be done by a school and not a region specific. Of course I know that this only applies to certain countries but anything a school can do to try to help. My understanding is this guy had been charged before he even became a teacher as a lifeguard? As far as a the wife and if she knew? Well….I suppose I should not comment on that. how terrible. On a side note…what liability does an international school has if they did not properly screen? Why not make it a requirement as well for hiring places like Search. Have it uploaded with the references. Heaven knows they charge enough for their service. This would be a nice way to help the problem and would require little effort on their part.


  7. Lynn Kolber says:

    I think part of the process is education on how to spot potential predators.

    Often warning signs are overlooked as the predator is charming and well liked by some in the community.

    The other issue that my son who attended an international school raised is actively countering the “bystander effect” where people know there is a problem but do not deal with it.

    Police clearances are standard practice for adoption and immigration and as such should be a minimum requirement for all staff.

    And school admins, counsellors, teachers and staff need to tackle any potential situations IMMEDIATELY.


  8. Wanderer says:

    Well said, Rational Mind! And the anonymous reply.

    None of us want to see children hurt, but it’s too easy to see a knee-jerk reaction as a better solution than it actually is. The only way the background check idea will work is for there to be a gigantic international database. And if that thought doesn’t frighten people, then they don’t know enough about history.

    Furthermore, some people will still slip through the cracks of protection, even with better or more extensive background checks.

    Schools ought to send at least two adults on field trips with students and yes, educate students on speaking up about abuse. Those methods don’t guarantee protection, but nothing does, and they are far more practical than background checks.

    One of the most perplexing problems is those schools that fire pedophiles, but cover for them to avoid the negative publicity. ??? I don’t even know what to say about that . . .


    • I respectfully disagree with you Wanderer. The schools may not be able to be 100% that they got a clean background check (even those who work for the FBI can slip through the checks) but they can at last TRY. Currently it seems that many do not even try. Spend the $35 or so to screen them in their home country. Most first world countries offer this service.


      • lifelong int. teacher says:

        Many many teachers will not have lived in their home countries prior to being recruited to a new school. A background check, easily obtained from these first world countries (I have got one several times),will reveal nothing.Unfortunately,paedo’s are well aware of opportunities in the third world to access young people both in and out of school.It is often difficult but not impossible to get a check from developing places. It may be more likely that they choose such a country to work? Realistically, schools or recruiting agencies should request checks from the teachers last place of residence but only offences prosecuted will be registered so….?


  9. Gill says:

    There was the case in India where the head assumed a new identity thus protecting him from background checks. Last time I heard, he was in jail but I don’t know what happened to him. I think he worked in a number of schools before under different names and he might be again. this is a big problem even if it is only a tiny proportion of teachers.


  10. Curious says:

    I understand his wife, Jean Vahey is a well respected school administrator around the world. I am curious as to why his wife did not suspect anything as this was happening over many years.


    • Cass says:

      His wife may have making excuses for what she could not believe psychologically, or like the director who sent him home the first time in Nicaragua had some blind faith that he could change. His own confession shows that he actually didn’t believe he was hurting the boys because he had drugged them unconscious. Predators at this level rarely work without a carefully cultivated network – and use their spouses as carefully as they “groom” their victims, gullible parents, enabling colleagues, directors, inspectors.


    • Anonymous says:

      Why would she have any reason to suspect that he was molesting children while on overnight field trips? She was not on those trips, and had enough to do with her own work and family at home to become suspicious of the unlikely with no reason to become suspicious.



      • Anonymous says:

        Hello! The spouse would have NO inkling that something was amiss. Living with a sexually dysfunctional person has to be obvious early into the relationship. Often couples enable each other and protect each other to avoid public shame. Families that engage in incest are also self-protective. We know so little about sexual behavior and act so shocked that people who are with children would have ulterior motives, yet I would venture to guess that while most of us have not actually been molested have been in situations that were uncomfortable with adult teachers or mentors for whatever reason. People who engage in this type of behavior are never above lying shamelessly to continue with their behavior. The wife does NOT get a pass on this one.


  11. Cass says:

    Thanks for your courage, ISR – in opening this conversation, which raises so many important questions.

    I wonder: How are we complicit? As professionals, we can start by breaking the code of silence predators depend on to manipulate our networks, and not hide with them. As you point out, a simple google search shows Vahey’s “Travel Club” took him far beyond the schools who hired him and passed him on from one admin to another, for access to vulnerable kids beyond our classrooms. Was your school represented there too? – at Basketball meets, Debating, Forensics, MUN? Have you met to discuss? The conference that he was scheduled to attend with students before his arrest (and had attended with previous schools) was part of an undoubtedly well-intentioned global student network known to many of us. Vahey was an active member online and off. This is a “closed, student-run” network, endorsed by both the ECIS and the AAIE, administrated by hub schools. Do the schools involved not have a responsibility to investigate and openly discuss the connections of recent events “in another country” – with faculty, students and their parents?

    Do teachers have the right to raise issues of child protection and push for compliance from admins more concerned with what could impact school reputation?

    If we are serious about “nurturing the next generation of young global leaders” and values espoused by the IB, how can we not have this conversation – as openly as possible – starting in our own faculty meetings and classrooms?


  12. Pedro says:

    There are international schools that push these pedophiles on to other schools so their school doesn’t suffer the bad publicity.


  13. alex says:

    Of course, checks have their place, but there will always be individuals who are determined enough to evade them.

    In this case, I would suggest that the schools may have some questions to answer about the arrangements for field trips. Whenever I have been on one of these – and it’s quite a few – there have always been several accompanying adults and I would guess that inappropriate adult behaviour – spending lots of time with one child, ‘checking the tents’, etc. would quickly raise suspicions.

    From what I have read – and it’s not too much – it would appear that this individual has been the sole adult on his trips. If this is the case then, maybe, the schools may need to examine their policies.


    • Cass says:

      6/7 for reading the question: “How can we, as International educators, protect our children from such abuse? How can schools uncover and expose those who would do harm?”

      Some international schools do not even have a clear policy in place for reporting that does not leave the reporting teacher vulnerable as a “whistle blower.” From a business POV, it is much easier to put the concerned teacher under the bus first; you can deal with the pedophile later. Where is the priority on child protection in this problem?


  14. Now in Aus says:

    In order to teach and be registered in Australia as teacher one needs a Police Check. BUT all that shows is that you haven’t been prosecuted. We all know there are people out there who are abusive to children in a variety of ways but never been caught and/or before the courts.


  15. Charles Wills says:

    When I taught in Ohio it was known as “Pass the Trash,” the name of a popular card game. There was a prominent …. who worked at a several schools by agreeing to leave quietly after being discovered.


  16. omgarsenal says:

    Getting back on topic……as a school psychologist and counselor (retired) and having worked overseas for 11 years, I can attest to the following:

    1) Far too few international schools bother to do adequate background checks,never mind minimum checks on their potential hires.
    2) The opportunities for pedophiles and abusers to find victims and ideal situations in which to practice their perversions are far too plentiful, thanks to poor student security management in too many of the above schools.
    3) Once a pedophile is outed, there are far too many administrators who want to sweep everything under the carpet and simply take a cover your ass approach to handling this tragic pestilence. I have seen proven pedophiles leave will a glowing letter of recommendation in order to ensure that the secret is preserved, along with reputations.
    4) I personally experienced a school’s senior administrators discourage the pursuit of an accused pedophile because he was a lawyer and they feared he might sue the school! Their answer was to tell the parent of this child to register the child at another school!

    Kids will never be 100% secure BUT schools can and must ensure that they’ve done their due diligence before hiring
    anyone…regardless of age,gender or need.


    • Cass says:

      7/7 Counselors are both vulnerable themselves, and often co-opted if they are part of admin team. With the wisdom of hindsight, how would you advise younger counsellors to do do things differently? What resources? How do you facilitate a safe space for kids to come to you? How do you build a file? What kinds of red flags do other teachers need to be aware of when listening to students?


  17. Mr. B says:

    whew! I’ve just been hired by my 4th international school – I’ve had to produce Police Clearances for each one – my latest has me getting clearances from all the countries I’ve lived in over the last 10 years. Not so easy to achieve!!!

    Its easy to point at the schools and say “Do your homework,” but its not always so simple. A pedophile isn’t going to put this information on his/her resume or talk to many about it. If there is a police record, then… wow, thats poor and the school should accept fault for poor practice.. but often there is not.

    Perhaps when schools gain accreditations with various authorities, these should insist upon a visual of all police checks for staff?

    A big issue that I see is when we bring in outsiders to coach/teach ECA’s, CCA’s etc and run our sports programs. That is when schools seem to put too much faith in other authorities. All staff in contact with children should be asked to provide Police Clearances – including cleaners, maintenance staff and office staff.

    Just my 2 cents…


  18. David says:

    Four international schools later and never once asked for a police clearance certificate from each country I have lived in.

    I recommend that before a teacher leaves a contract to not only get a written reference and statement of service but also a “Police Clearance Cert”. When I applied for a teaching position in a Govt school in Australia, all three documents were needed from each school and country I worked in before I was cleared to teach.

    International schools are not only a safe haven for sex offenders but also child support deadbeats, school loan deadbeats, credit card deadbeats, and loan fraudsters. Schools may not be able to vett credit thieves, but they do have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the kids.


    • Cass says:

      Goodness – and thank you for the insight. Mine mostly had outstanding citizens, card-carrying do-gooders, kind people who look the other way because they want to believe the best in humanity – with a few random pedophiles keeping us on our toes.


    • CJCTAus says:

      Agree, BUT in Australia all the checks show is that you/I were never convicted of an offence. They do note show that I once had a speeding ticket, DUI or anything else.


  19. Pippa says:

    I think we need to consider how we communicate about abuse to kids. Part of the reason people get away with these crimes year on year is because the children affected are either too scared or too embarrassed to speak up when abuse of any kind happens. They think it is somehow their fault. People are finally taking the kid off bullying and explaining to students what it is and what they can do about it – we should be empowering our students to speak up about any kind of abuse and know that we, as educators and parents, will support them.


  20. tflanag1 says:

    staying abroad….I don’t know where to begin in responding to your outrageous post.

    Encountering more obstacles in one’s job search is a small price to pay for better measures to protect children. More extensive background checks are NOT “even more worrying”. Your post is worrying. Perhaps this is not what you intended when your wrote your message, but your words come across as incredibly egocentric.

    This article just chronicled the abuse of hundreds of children and the disturbing fact that abuse of children in international schools is an epidemic. This is what is worrying. The safety of children must always be the first priority of any school or of any teacher. staying abroad…I think you need to re-think your priorities.


    • Anonymous says:

      tflanag1, I think I must have missed the bit in the article when it describes sexual abuse of children in international schools is of epidemic proportions. It mentions two cases. That’s not an epidemic. Of course two pedophiles is two too many, and we need to make sure predators like this don’t slip through the cracks, but fear-mongering is not going to help the situation. The vast majority of international educators are dedicated professionals who care very much for the children in their charge.

      At least some of the blame in the Vahey case must lie in the US. Why wasn’t he put on the sex-offenders list? The article makes it sound like it was an invitation, which Vahey just declined. How on earth did he manage to get a teaching job in the US to start with? The international schools that hired him obviously would have assumed (quite fairly, I think) that known sex offenders would not be allowed to teach in the US.

      However, police checks can only go so far, and will not help to uncover those pedophiles who haven’t been caught yet. Pippa is right in suggesting that we need to do a better job of educating students so that incidents are reported when they happen.


      • CareerTeacher says:

        I agree that characterizing this as an ‘epidemic’ is counterproductive; there is a lot of anxiety about precisely this, so we must be very careful to address realities and not perceptions.

        In Vahey’s case, at least, nothing that anyone is proposing (police checks, background checks, documentation, etc) would have exposed him, so recommending more bureaucracy is neither productive nor effective. And it adds one more burden to International Teachers who wish to maintain their careers: imagine coming from a third-world school that does not have an effective police force who can provide such documentation; that alone might eliminate you from being able to apply to a host of larger schools.

        We need solutions that address the problem, not the fears. Teaching kids how to recognize and address inappropriate behaviors is a great start. Empowering colleagues to report ‘red flags’ and having that followed up by a effective, yet private, investigations might be another good process….keep in mind that such systems can be abused.

        But hollow bureaucracy and reacting to amplified fears….not helpful.


      • tflanag1 says:

        I may have overstated the case by calling it an “epidemic”. However, for people to whine about the inconvenience that required background checks could bring is ludicrous. This kind of talk reveals that the individual is more concerned with their own employment than the safety of children. Disgusting.

        And, yes, helping to remove the stigma of abuse to empower students to name their abusers is important. However, it is much more important that schools work to prevent the abuse from happening in the first place. Your final paragraph makes it sound like responsibility lies with the children! No student should ever be faced with this dilemma in the first place. It may not be realistic to say that a case of abuse will never occur, but this should definitely be our goal.

        Responsibility lies with the schools, not the kids or families. Don’t blame the US. Making assumptions based on what vetting other schools may or may not have done is irresponsible. Each school must perform due diligence to ensure that the adults in contact with children have no history of activity that would raise concern. Period.


  21. Anonymous says:

    That you are in your 60s and female is irrelavent to the issue of paedophilia. in the UK alone there are many cases of female teachers taking advantage of children and young adults in their charge.

    Similalrly the people mentioned in this article were over 60 and again in the UK we are currently prosecuting a large number of show business paedophiles who have molested children well into their 50s and beyond

    The implication that your age and gender should preclude from the necessary checks is quite frankly abhorrent


  22. staying abroad says:

    What’s even more worrying is how many schools are going to expect extensive background checks before they hire. Given the vileness of this story, it is understandable, but all these checks take yet more time and money. I’m a female in my 60s. Not high risk. Already having issues with the number of paper qualifications demanded despite superior evals and many, many years of experience.


    • Really?? says:

      Wow! You’re part of the problem. You should not be in the teaching profession if you feel that you personally being inconvenienced for the sake of the safety of students is too much to expect. Vahey was 65. Who say’s you’re not high risk? You????


      • Rational mind says:

        Look just because you want to live in a police state does not mean this lady should want the same thing. She may be overstating her case because she might believe most older female teachers do not have pedophile issues. She is probably right, but I do not have stats to back me up, but neither do you.

        Slow your roll and look at the long term effects of these increased background checks. 1. They reveal more than pedophilia, so if you got a DUI, is that going to keep you from getting a job now? 2. They just do not work. There is not a standard. If you need a check from America, get a local one. If you have no charges there, you will get a clean one, even if you have murder charges in a different state. 3. This guy had checks done according to people I have heard. He was also well liked and this was a HUGE surprise to many. He never would have been caught if his maid would not have found his pictures.

        The knee jerk reaction is to check more, kill the scum, burn down your own house because you found a roach. I think that is cutting off the nose to spite the face. I say just relax, keep a level head, and do not call out teachers with your exuberant desire to save the children. Most international teachers are good and safe people, they are educated, care about the children’s welfare, and keep their own noses clean. The Korean/Thailand guy above was an ESL teacher which has much more lax rules for employment.

        SO before people go slinging mud against people who are reluctant to have even more intrusion into their personal lives, why don’t we calmly see where countries are going to go, and what the fallout will actually be.


        • Anonymous says:

          I agree with you ‘Rational Mind’. Also, for those of you who haven’t taught in the USA this century, like the man in the article, the ‘rules’ have changed in the USA. There are some cross state checks and such with the national data base. It may have been because this man was the husband of the ECIS exec director. That wouldn’t raise a red flag, but give a school a sense of trust perhaps. Also, I live in an underdeveloped country going through a revolution. That’s part of the excitement and enticement of living abroad. Working in a foreign culture. Background checks here are only worth the paper and bribe you give. I am sure many are in the same boat as me. These were 2 extreme cases and I would guess that 99% of all teachers are vetted, hired and provide great care for their students. I also agree with the earlier post that there should be 2 staff members on these field trips and such. OK, that’s my 2 cents.


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