Sunday, April 28, 2013

Baptist school teacher sentenced on child sex crimes; others prosecuted in cover-up

Terah Rawlings (top left); associate pastor Raymond Knight,
who is Rawlings' father (top right); senior pastor Franklin Knight,
who is Rawlings' uncle (bottom right); school principal Jan Ocvik (bottom left).
(El Paso County Sheriff's Office photo)

“A former teacher who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old student at a now-shuttered Baptist school in Colorado Springs will serve 90 days in jail and up to the rest of her life on intensive probation.”

Terah Rawlings, 33, taught at the Hilltop Baptist School, which was operated by Hilltop Baptist Church. The school belonged to the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools.

Kudos to the El Paso County sheriff’s office for also prosecuting three other school administrators in connection with a cover-up that involved failing to report the teacher’s crimes. Such “failure to report” prosecutions are rare.

Rawlings’ uncle, Franklin “Wayne” Knight was the senior pastor of Hilltop and formerly the school’s chief executive. He was accused of orchestrating a cover-up to protect Rawlings, and according to The Gazette, he pled guilty to being an accessory to sex abuse.

Rawlings’ father, Raymond “Allen” Knight, was an associate pastor and the school’s athletic director. He has pled guilty to failing to report child abuse.

The school’s former principal, Jan Orcvik, was also charged with failing to report the abuse and sentenced to probation in a plea agreement.

The abuse was allegedly ongoing for about two and a half years, and Rawlings’ conduct was described as an “open secret.” Other students, in their confusion, were left to keep Rawlings’ secret.

Other teachers and church-goers had reported concerns to school authorities and to the pastor. Laurie Sutton and Dustin Sutton, who were a math teacher and basketball coach at the school, claim they were fired in retaliation for reporting the information they had heard about Rawlings’ abuse of the boy. Another teacher, and two other church-goers, are also reported to have raised concerns, but each time, prosecutors say that the concerns were ignored and those who spoke out were discouraged from going forward.

So a young teen boy -- betrayed by church, school, and community – was left to be sexually abused for two-and-a half years.