GUILDERLAND, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple confirms Raquan Dyson bonded out of Albany County Jail on Thursday afternoon, and Guilderland Central School District said he’s banned from all its properties. However, it’s still unclear how the 28-year-old custodian at Farnsworth Middle School managed to sexually exploit a 14-year-old student and did the school do enough to prevent it.
“School districts do have a responsibility to provide training to their staff, to their students, and to their parents,” said Dr. Billie-Jo Grant, one of the nation’s leading experts on school misconduct, prevention, and training.
“I think it’s very important how the school acts now following what has happened,” added Hanna Bogart, a Crime Victim Advocate at the Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center.
As NEWS10 has reported, Dyson was arrested Tuesday after police said evidence surfaced showing he followed the 14-year-old victim home for sex and that there had been sexual contact with the child in the past. Guilderland Central School District claims Dyson had limited contact with students and only started his shift at 2:30 p.m., an hour before the middle school’s dismissal.
Guilderland Superintendent Marie Wiles responding to additional NEWS10 requests Thursday further adds counselors and resources are available to all students and staff. She also claims Dyson signed off on receiving “information about harassment (including sexual harassment) in the workplace” when he was first hired in December 2021. Her statement adds:
To the extent that social media played a role in this situation, we urge families to take an active role in your children’s activities online, and to remind students to be mindful of their digital footprint.Guilderland Central School District Superintendent Marie Wiles
Guilderland PD said investigators cannot confirm how social media applies to this case, but in the meantime, Bogart echoes Superintendent Wiles’ statement, adding parents should brave the potentially uncomfortable conversation on ways their kids can be targeted.
“Continuously reiterating that if this happens—you’re uncomfortable—come to me, I will be here, you can share that with me, you will not be in trouble, and if something like that happens, making sure they respond appropriately with full support and guidance, so that then that child can see, oh I will be supported, I will be heard,” Bogart explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Parents of older kids may struggle with the fine line between when to give teens their privacy and independence and when to monitor them for their own safety. Dr. Grant also sits on the board for S.E.S.A.M.E.—Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation. She said parents do need to be checking their children’s devices.
“A parent doesn’t need to look at every single exchange in their friend groups, but they can see that okay, they’re communicating with an adult, or I don’t recognize that name,” Dr. Grant said. “Don’t just assume that they know how to use these devices appropriately and that they are not being contacted by people who might be grooming them to eventual sexual misconduct.”
She goes on to give examples of what to look out for that may indicate your child is hiding something from you. “Kids can also be really sneaky in that they can have two accounts. They could have two Instagram accounts, one that they share with parents and family and one that they use to carry on these secret conversations,” she said. “You can recognize that by seeing if somebody is logging in and out of accounts, and if you only have one account, you’re not going to log out on your own phone, right?”
Bogart also adds it’s important not to go too far in order to maintain trust with your child. She said they need to know they will not be punished when coming forward. “I would recommend setting boundaries between you and your child that you’re both comfortable with, and setting what standards are appropriate, what’s not appropriate, this is how you should conduct yourself on the Internet, and things like that,” she said.
Bogart also said the Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center is just one of many Capital Region resources that both schools and families can use to explore difficult or uncomfortable topics. “What our agency often does is we do preventative education into schools that are interested in our services,” she explained. “We also teach kids consent and boundaries.”
Dr. Grant said all schools must consider carefully whether their policies on sexual misconduct and harassment are enough to protect both students and staff. She said a study in 2000 conducted by the American Association of University Women found 9.6% of girls from eighth to eleventh grade would be physically or verbally sexually harassed by their high school graduation. With the explosion of the Internet and social media, that number is not only guaranteed to be bigger, it’s also impossible to accurately quantify.
“It gives those offenders looking to groom students access at all hours of the day,” she said. “They could be texting or messaging that child at 11 o’clock at night, and the parents and school district would be unaware of what’s going on, because they have that access.”
“I would urge school district administrators—I can’t stress this enough—to talk about it,” she said. “Don’t pretend it’s not going to happen at your school district, because the odds are that it will, and unfortunately the numbers prove that.”
Dr. Grant even ventures use stories like Dyson’s as a teaching tool to show teens the reality they can avoid. “Bringing up an article and talking through it, hey this happened to somebody else, I want to make sure you’re aware that these are things that can happen,” she explained. “It’s easy to see these headlines and think, oh not my district, we have a great culture. Our teachers or school employees love the kids, they would never do that. Unfortunately, where kids are is where these cases occur.”