JACKSONVILLE, NC (WNCT) – A former Onslow County teacher has been arrested and accused of secretly recording students in his classroom.
Jacksonville police arrested Stephen J. Bera, a teacher at New Bridge Middle School, on Thursday. Investigators found a recording device that Bera had installed in his classroom, police said.
Officials said with the assistance of school officials, the device and other evidence at the school were seized.
Bera was later arrested and taken into custody at his home without incident. Jacksonville Police Chief Michael G. Yaniero said there were at least 19 charges against Bera for secret recording.
However, the investigation is still at an early stage, so it is unclear how many students were affected and how long the recordings were made.
Yaniero has confirmed that at least some of the videos show students in various stages of undressing. It was unclear why the students dressed and/or undressed in a traditional classroom.
Bera is no longer employed in the Onslow County Schools System, Public Information Officer Brent Anderson said in a news conference Friday. Anderson said Bera has announced his retirement.
He was originally released on $25,000 bail but was taken back into custody Friday afternoon.
Anderson said a background check is conducted on employees in the school system by the SBI and the FBI before they are hired. Anderson said there was no indication of any wrongdoing by Bera before he was hired.
“The safety of students in the Onslow County School System is our highest concern,” Anderson said in a statement from Onslow County Schools. “The thoughts and prayers of everyone with OCS go out to everyone affected by the events leading up to the arrest of former teacher Stephen Bera. The Onslow County school system maintains high standards for all of our employees and Mr. Bera’s actions are in stark contrast to our expectations.”
Anderson said an investigation began after information about the secret recordings was shared with school officials earlier Thursday. The Jacksonville Police Department was then contacted.
School staff were notified of the incident Friday morning, and parents were notified around 9:30 a.m. Friday, Anderson said.
Bera began his tenure at Onslow County Schools in 2007 as a language arts teacher at Hunters Creek Middle School. He has also worked at Northwood Park Middle School, Onslow Virtual School and most recently New Bridge Middle School.
District officials have contacted the administration of these schools to bring his past employment history to their attention and will be cooperating with the investigation.
The investigation is still ongoing, officials said. Detectives are working with the district attorney’s office to identify additional charges that will be released shortly.
“We are asking anyone with knowledge of this incident to contact the Jacksonville Police Department. We are currently working with Onslow County school officials to identify victims and will be reaching out to those involved,” said Lt. Christopher Funcke, chief of investigative services for the Jacksonville Police Department.
The police have crisis advisors on staff and are available to talk to those affected.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective B. Stitz of the JPD Criminal Investigations Division at 910-938-5039 or Crime Stoppers at 910-938-3273. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards of up to $2,500 for information of value to law enforcement. Callers to Crime Stoppers are not required to identify themselves. Information may also be sent anonymously via Text-A-Tip via SMS by typing TIP4CSJAX and your message to 274637 (CRIMES).
https://www.cbs17.com/news/north-carolina-news/nc-teacher-resigns-after-secretly-recorded-students-in-class-officials-say/ NC teacher resigns after secretly recording students in class, officials say