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J.C. v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

February 27, 2019

J.C., Appellant
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Appellee

Page 879

          APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SIXTH DIVISION [NO. 60CV-17-3366], HONORABLE TIMOTHY DAVIS FOX, JUDGE

          Jeff Rosenzweig, for appellant.

          Callie Corbyn, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

         OPINION

         ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Judge

          J.C. appeals the Pulaski County Circuit Court’s order affirming the administrative decision that he had committed sexual abuse of a minor and that his name should be placed on the Arkansas Child Maltreatment Central Registry.[1] J.C. argues that the agency’s decision is arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion. We affirm.

          I. Facts

          On August 23, 2013, a report was made to the child-abuse hotline regarding the alleged maltreatment of C.K., born September

Page 880

23, 1998. After an investigation by the Arkansas Department of Human Service (DHS), a finding of child maltreatment was entered against J.C., who timely requested a hearing. The hearing was stayed due to pending criminal charges against J.C. related to the alleged abuse of C.K., but those charges were nolle prossed. An administrative hearing was held on November 29, 2016. C.K. did not appear, but two videotaped recordings of her interviews with investigators and her written statement were admitted as evidence. C.K. alleged that while she and J.C. were alone with her in his locked classroom, J.C. put his hand down her pants and touched her underneath her underwear on her private area. She also said that he had kissed her. He later asked her forgiveness and told her he had been praying about it.

          Suzanne Harris, an investigator with the Crimes Against Children Division (CACD) of the Arkansas State Police, testified that she investigated C.K.’s allegations and spoke with her in a recorded interview. C.K. told Harris that she would have lunch in J.C.’s classroom and that he once had tickled her. She said that they had gone to the River Market together during lunch. C.K. told Harris that J.C. had touched her on her "lady area" and on her butt. In her written statement, C.K. stated that J.C. had put his hands inside her panties and said he wanted to feel her once. Harris testified that it was not uncommon for children to delay disclosing sexual abuse or sexual contact. She said that the basis for her true finding of sexual contact was that after an in-depth interview with C.K. and reviewing C.K.’s written statement, Detective Trent of the Little Rock Police Department sought an arrest warrant. Harris stated, "We can’t go against law enforcement." She also said that after the charges had been dropped, her "attitude toward the case" did not change. She said that child-maltreatment law is different than criminal law. Harris said that C.K.’s shoplifting charge over the "intervening weekend" had no bearing on her true finding for sexual contact.

          Harris said that she spoke to Ms. Rook, who works at C.K.’s school. Ms. Rook told Harris that J.C. had talked to her about C.K. being upset with him for giving her a "B." He had told Rook that C.K. wanted to start a book club and that she had been texting him. Rook also said that J.C. had stated that he and C.K. had lunch together in his classroom; Rook had told him that doing so was not a good idea; and J.C. wanted to argue over the issue.

          Harris said that she had talked to J.C., who denied an interview but told her he believed C.K.’s allegation was in retaliation for a grade of "86" that he had given her. Harris also talked to C.K.’s mother and obtained written statements from other students.

          J.C. testified that he was C.K.’s English teacher and that she had eaten lunch with him in his classroom. In response to a written allegation against him by another student, he said that he had taken that student into the hallway to address her wearing a tank top that exposed her cleavage. He said the school had a strict dress-code policy, and the student had violated the policy. He said that it was his job to reprimand her, but ...


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