NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — As sixth graders, the students thought their teacher at Davisville Middle School was a creep.
They saw him leering at some girls, singling them out with pet nicknames, encouraging them to dance for him. They saw him treating boys with contempt, and sometimes cruelty.
The teacher, who was also a coach and involved with extracurricular activities, told the students that he’d weathered parents’ complaints for nearly 30 years, and there was nothing anyone could do to him.
By seventh grade, some of the boys had started taking notes, documenting what the teacher was saying and doing, particularly to the girls, at the school.
In an exclusive interview with The Boston Globe, one of the boys described how in January 2021, he and his friends decided to start their “Pedo Database,” to track the teacher’s words and actions.
They had tried talking to adults about what they heard and saw. None of the adults listened or took them seriously, the student told the Globe. It made the boys uncomfortable to see the girls in their class struggling to deal with their teacher flirting with them.
“Sometimes they’d laugh. Sometimes they just kind of just sit there awkwardly,” the boy recalled. “Even the ones that said he was ‘creepy’ laughed, because they were obviously not trying to tick him off or anything. So they’re just fake laughing, awkwardly laughing.”
“Other students noticed it too,” the boy added.
And so, on Jan. 5, 2021, a small group of seventh-grade boys decided to stick up for the girls.
They set up a subchannel on Discord, named it after the teacher, and called it the “Pedo Database.” “Post the [teacher’s] pedo moments and quotes here so we can get evidence,” one boy wrote.
“This is now the official chat that we will later use as evidence against [the teacher] about pedophilia in case anything does come up in the future and we do turn out to be right,” wrote another.
During COVID, as they attended class online, they’d open the Discord channel on a split-screen and document the teacher’s comments in real time:
“You all love me so choose love.”
“You gotta stand up and dance now.”
Everyone “in bathing suits tomorrow.”
Once they were back in class in person, the boys jotted down notes to add to the channel later: Flirting with one girl. Teasing another. Calling the girls “sweetheart” and “sunshine.” Asking one girl to take off her shoes and try wiggling her toes without moving her pinkies.
“I felt bad for [the girls] because sometimes it just seems like it was a humiliating thing,” the boy told the Globe. “He’d play a song and he’d make one of them get up and dance.”
When the school year ended, the boys told incoming students about the Discord channel and encouraged them to keep tabs on the teacher. All in all, eight boys were involved, he said.
And then, in late April 2022, the teacher was escorted out of the middle school.
Interim Superintendent Michael Waterman announced that he had placed a teacher on leave and was launching an investigation into allegations that the teacher had stalked a pre-teen girl at the middle school while he was her coach, and had been inappropriate with other girls.
The accusations were made by lawyer Timothy J. Conlon, who is representing the girl’s family and is also representing former athletes at North Kingstown High School who have accused former coach Aaron Thomas of conducting naked “fat tests” on teenage athletes.
The middle school girl’s family had complained to the previous superintendent, but it wasn’t until they threatened to get a restraining order that the teacher was made to stop coaching middle schoolers in North Kingstown.
The teacher went on to coach in two other school districts, while continuing to teach at Davisville, earning more than $87,000 a year, according to school records. And parents at another school district told the North Kingstown family that the teacher had coaching sessions in his basement and appeared to fixate on a select few girls, according to Conlon.
Though the teacher wasn’t named, the Davisville school community knew whom Waterman was talking about. At home, the boy’s mother told him that people were being asked to come forward with information.
That’s when he told her that he and his friends had been keeping a log of the teacher’s actions.
“He’s always been kind, looking out for kids, even early on in elementary school, if he saw a teacher yelling inappropriately at another kid, it would really bother him,” the boy’s mother told the Globe. “He’s like, ‘That’s not OK. You know, it’s not OK to talk to a child that way.’”
While she knew that the teacher was “angry and mean” towards boys — she complained to the school after her son told her about it — she said she didn’t realize what else was happening in the classroom.
That’s why they kept the log, he told the Globe.
“I don’t think there was a single adult who would ever — like their parents, my mom, like anybody in the school — who had ever really taken the whole thing seriously before,” he added.
The boy’s mother contacted Conlon, and now the “Pedo Database” is in the hands of the US attorney’s Office, the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families, the state Department of Education, and with lawyer Matthew Oliverio, who is conducting the school’s internal investigation.
“I did not ever think this would actually be used as evidence, but we always had it as if it was,” said the boy, who is now 15 and a student at North Kingstown High School. “So I’m glad that we did, even though it might have seemed like slightly stupid at times.”
Waterman said Thursday that the teacher remains on leave. His name has not been publicly released because of the ongoing investigations. But students and parents know who he is.
“Everybody has talked about it, since sixth grade, how much they’ve hated his behavior and all of that,” the boy said. “That’s also why I feel like even if their investigation finds nothing, putting him back in the school would be a disaster.”
He wished the adults had taken the students’ complaints seriously, the boy said. Ignoring the problem made things worse.
”They need to definitely gain the trust back because no one believes that they’ll be taken seriously,” he said. “Especially guys reporting this type of stuff. Because every time that it has, they’ve been told, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t say such things.’ ”