CMS cracks down on student safety after volunteer charged with indecent liberties with a minor


CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District is cracking down on the vetting process for their volunteers and employees following sexual misconduct allegations involving a volunteer.

Ricardo Mata was charged with indecent liberties with a minor - lewd and lascivious. Mata was the operator of Charlotte educational program PlaySpanish, which is a company that employs immigrants to teach preschoolers Spanish language and culture skills.

The program helps children in preschools, daycares, and private homes learn Spanish and Spanish culture.

According to school officials, Mata provided PlaySpanish outside the the district's curriculum but held the classes in several CMS schools. It was during this time that he allegedly sexually assaulted at least two minors, officials said.

The latest incident police are investigating happened at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Dilworth. CMPD says a 6-year-old girl was reportedly assaulted during one of Mata's classes that teaches Spanish through local summer camps. According to investigators, the incident happened at the church last summer.

In 2009, Mata was investigated but never charged in a similar type of situation.

"So it does seem to be another case going back nine years. Same type of situation at one of these camps of his. Actually, same age as our current victim of six-year-old back in 2009," Rob Tufano, of CMPD, said.

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The concerns about the previous case were brought up during Mata's first court appearance for a recent incident.

Mata was registered as a CMS volunteer, CMS officials said.

The district sent a letter outlining the procedures they will be implementing to make sure this does not happen again. School officials said Mata passed the required background checks for his position because he had no prior criminal charges.

Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox released this statement in the district's letter:

"There are no words to adequately describe how traumatizing this incident has been for the victims, families, and school communities affected by Mr. Mata's criminal acts. Mr. Mata was trusted by families, school leaders and students. This betrayal is painful and alarming to families, to schools and to the district."

In a letter to parents and students, Wilcox says the district is taking action with several measures to keep students safe. These include creating a Student Program Safety Task Force that will review volunteer procedures and regulations on how the community can use their facilities.

The task force would also look at background check procedures and reinforce the importance of reporting any suspicious behavior.

The letter also states that school officials will reinforce that adult volunteers should work in pairs with students and that programs must comply with regulations.

Wilcox says communication is key. He says school officials will work to ensure parents are aware and have timely information about these kind of incidents that affect their child's well-being.

Last year, PlaySpanish, said it would be closed for a couple days because two of its teachers were harassed at police roadblocks, one in Charlotte and one in Gaston County, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Mata said if the harassment continued, he and the staff will discuss the closing for good.

School officials said Mata's volunteer status was revoked and he has been "barred" from all CMS facilities due to the allegations.

You can read the district's full letter here.

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