MIAMI (FLV) – Charlie Crist’s running mate, Karla Hernandez-Mats, and the teachers union she led have a history with a now-convicted child abuser who became part of the inner circle of the union amid misconduct allegations.
Middle School teacher Wendell Nibbs pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual activity with a child in familial or custodial custody. The Miami-Dade School Board reached a $9 million settlement with five former students who said they were sexually assaulted by Nibbs. Nine female students accused Nibbs of sexual assault and sexual misconduct in his career of 15 years.
Before the 2017 arrest, several female students made sexual harassment and sexual misconduct claims against Nibbs that were deemed “unsubstantiated.” These claims would pop over the years as Nibbs became part of the United Teachers of Dade’s (UTD) inner circle while Hernandez-Mats served in office.
The Miami Herald reported extensively on the timeline of the allegations in 2019. The Herald reported that the United Teachers of Dade “knew Nibbs was frequently in trouble.” In fact, a UTD representative was with Nibbs throughout investigations where Nibbs faced five allegations that were sexual in nature.
Nibbs was described as UTD’s “bloodhound” and would intimidate other stewards questioning leadership at meetings, the Herald reported. He was elected as a UTD building steward.
– In 2004, two 14-year-old students alleged Nibbs engaged in sexual misconduct but those claims were later deemed “unsubstantiated” by a school police detective.
– In March of 2006, a third student accused Nibbs of asking her for a kiss in gym class, the Herald reported. The Office of Professional Standards deemed the allegation “unsubstantiated” by the Office of Professional Standards.
– Hernandez-Mats was elected to serve as United Teachers of Dade’s secretary and treasurer from 2013 to 2016. Sexual harassment claims against Nibbs continued during those years.
– In May of 2013, a 14-year-old accused Nibbs of engaging in inappropriate conversations and making “sexual passes” toward her, the Herald reported. A civilian district investigator determined no probable cause was found “since there is no evidence or witnesses.”
– A female student accused Nibbs of raping her in December of 2013. The girl came forward to police years later.
– In April of 2015, a fifth student accused Nibbs of sexual harassment. Nibbs once again denied the allegation. A detective determined that there was no probable cause to support the allegation. The student later told the investigator that she was forcibly raped in Nibbs’ classroom. This led to one of the two charges he faced in the June trial.
– In November of 2015, Nibbs is seen in pictures with Hernandez-Mats at Brownsville Middle School.
– In December of 2015, a teacher accused Nibbs of touching her inappropriately. An Office of Civil Rights Compliance investigator wrote that the accuser, Octavia Johnson, said Nibbs “should not be working in this capacity, especially around children.” Nibbs was cleared of any wrongdoing.
– Nibbs served on the United Teacher of Dade’s Frontline caucus with Hernandez-Mats. In 2016, Nibbs went to Tallahassee with Hernandez-Mats and other UTD leaders to lobby.
– In February of 2016, Nibbs is pictured with other UTD leaders and Hernandez-Mats thanked them for their support when she was running for president.
– In February of 2016, Nibbs posted on Facebook asking people to support the Frontline caucus, including Hernandez-Mats’ candidacy. Nibbs was a delegate candidate with the Frontline caucus. Below are more photos of Nibbs cheering on Hernandez-Mats during the race for UTD president.
– In February of 2016, Hernandez-Mats was elected as UTD’s president.
– In May of 2016, a sixth student accused Nibbs of sexual harassment. That same student also told a civilian investigator she saw nude photos on her 17-year-old friend’s phone. That friend later said Nibbs raped her five times between October 2015 and May 2016.
– From May of 2016 to September of 2016, Nibbs was moved to a non-student work site during the investigation, the Herald reports. It was not until the seventh allegation in 2016 that Nibbs was reassigned away from students.
– In June of 2016, a civilian investigator ruled that Nibbs acted inappropriately for the first time in 12 years.
– On Nov. 16 of 2017, while Nibbs had been reassigned away from students after the civilian investigator determined he had acted inappropriately toward a student, a UTD member posted a picture of Nibbs and Hernandez-Mats on Facebook.
– Nibbs was arrested on Nov. 30, 2017 on two counts of engaging in a sexual act with a child. He resigned from the district that same day.
– In December of 2018, another girl said Nibbs raped her in the girl’s locker room when she was in sixth grade.
– In February of 2019, Hernandez-Mats was re-elected as President of UTD.
– In March of 2019, the Miami Herald published the story: How did this middle school teacher stay so long while girls said he was molesting them?
– In March of 2019, the Miami Herald reporter, Colleen Wright, said she had requested a statement from Karla Hernandez-Mats for two months. Wright did not receive a comment until after the story was published. Nibbs was arrested back in November of 2017.
– Wright pointed out how there was not condemnation for Nibbs’ actions. The union’s statement said “hiring, firing, background checks and investigations are all handled and led by the district. If they are hired by M-DCPS, they are deemed to be qualified and safe to be in a school environment, as far as UTD and other district employees are concerned.”
Charlie Crist announced Saturday that he chose Karla Hernandez-Mats as his running mate in the race for governor. Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed the teachers union Hernandez-Mats led “protected” a middle school teacher who was arrested for sexually abusing students.
DeSantis Torches Crist’s Running Mate for Allegedly Standing by Teacher who Sexually Abused Students: ‘That is Disgraceful!’
“You come to see that they had one of their top henchmen in the union down in Miami, who was a middle school teacher, he was sexually abusing middle school students for years and years,” DeSantis said. “And everybody knew this was going on.”
Despite the timeline of events, the Crist campaign called DeSantis’ claim a “lie.”
“It’s a lie. And to top it off, it’s coming from a governor whose own campaign was led[in 2018] by accused child sexual predator Matt Gaetz, and whose disgusting actions DeSantis still refuses to condemn,” said Samantha Ramirez with the Crist campaign.
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