Monday, November 21 2011 7:02 PM EST2011-11-22 00:02:33 GMT
Here are statements from the national and local offices of Big Brothers/Big Sisters.more>>
By Jennifer Kraus
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Big Brothers/Big Sisters program aims to help at-risk kids by matching them with adults who are supposed to guide and mentor them.
But now, some are asking serious questions about whether the program is doing enough to protect these children. This comes as one of the Big Brothers in Nashville stands accused of sexually molesting the young boy he'd been paired up with.
The boy's mother says she thought that her son's Big Brother would be the male role model her son desperately needed. Instead, what happened, she says, was the unthinkable.
"My child will never be the same," she tells NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
Talking about what happened isn't easy for this mother, who we are not identifying to protect her son.
But, according to court records, 39-year old William Arnold is charged with three counts of both aggravated sexual battery and rape of a child.
"That's my son that he did this to," the mother says.
Her son was only 10 years old when it started.
"You're not supposed to hate people, but I hate him. I really do," she said. "I hate him with a passion."
Arnold was supposed to be her son's role model and mentor. They'd been paired together by the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. The boy's mother said Arnold came highly recommended.
Arnold works for the Tennessee Board of Regents as the director of access and diversity. He has multiple degrees. He teaches an online course for TSU and serves on several boards, including the UT Black Alumni Council.
He wasn't someone, the boy's mother thought, who would even be accused of doing something so unthinkable.
"I know it happened more than, maybe, ten times," she claimed.
She believes that it happened, in part, because the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization dropped the ball.
"You don't think they did enough?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked her.
And her attorney, Luvell Glanton, agreed.
"There should have been something in place to make sure that these kids were protected and you didn't have that in this particular case."
Glanton calls it negligence.
In a lawsuit, he's filed against Arnold and Big Brothers/Big Sisters on behalf of the mother and her son, Glanton claims that during the entire year and a half Arnold was taking the boy on outings, no one from Big Brothers/Big Sisters ever met one on one with the child, his mother or Arnold.
Glanton said that's wrong. "No question about it."
He said that the random email or phone call the mother got a couple of times a year wasn't enough. He argued that someone from Big Brothers needed to frequently talk face to face with both the child and his mentor.
"Do you think this would have stopped it, would have prevented it?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.
"Yes, ma'am, no question in my mind about it," Glanton answered, "because he would have had someone looking at him. He didn't have anyone looking at him."
According to the national office of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, there is supposed to be "professional staff contact with the mentor, mentee, and parent" at least "once a month" either "in person or by telephone."
But the spokeswoman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America says the national office lets each local agency come up with its own "standards and guidelines ' based on the minimums outlined above.
The Nashville office refused to talk on camera citing "the investigation," but in a statement said their "staff have ongoing and regular communication" with those involved in the program. Still, the organization would not provide any details or even a copy of their written policy.
Lowell Perry, Jr., the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, did tell NewsChannel 5 Investigates by phone, "We're doing the best we can with what resources we have."
Yet, our investigation found the Nashville program isn't the only one dealing with this problem. We discovered that in the last three years, more than half a dozen other Big Brothers around the country have been arrested for molesting a child they were supposed to be mentoring.
Glanton said, "Hopefully, with this lawsuit, they will change their policy and procedures and begin to protect these children."
And the mother couldn't agree more. "I trusted you with the most valuable thing that I have to offer and that's my son, my child."
William Arnold pleaded not guilty to the charges and now is out of jail on bond. His trial is set to start next June. He also denied the charges in the civil lawsuit.
When NewsChannel 5 Investigates contacted him, he said he had no comment. His attorney called the charges "false" and also refused to discuss the case.
The boy's mother said her son is having a really rough time and is now seeing several counselors.
His attorney said the child is likely going to need therapy for many years to come and that's another goal of this lawsuit, he says, is to make sure that these costs are covered.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters says all of its volunteers go through a "thorough screening and background check" before they join the program. In this case, Arnold had never been arrested on any sort of charges like this before so nothing showed up.
To read the full statements from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization, click here.
And if you have any information related to this case or a similar investigation, you can contact the Metro Police Child Sex Unit at 615 862-7540.
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