Dark Web Exposed: Predatory Teachers In The Digital Age

Two years ago, former elementary school teacher Brittany Zamora captured America's attention for sexually grooming a sixth grade student. She’s currently serving a 20-year sentence.

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PREDATORY TEACHERS: Secrets, Manipulation and Sexual Misconduct
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PREDATORY TEACHERS: Secrets, Manipulation and Sexual Misconduct

In the spring of 2018, elementary teacher Brittany Zamora was arrested for engaging in sexual misconduct with a 13-year-old student. She is among a long line of teachers who have thrown their lives away to pursue sexual relationships with adolescents. This episode uses the Brittany Zamora case to examine how social media and digital communications have increased this trend.

In 2018, Brittany Zamora, an elementary school teacher in Goodyear, Arizona, signed onto Instagram and sent a series of sexually explicit messages to a 13-year-old boy in her class.

“Thinking about your sexy self,” Zamora wrote the sixth grade student. “I want to…. U so bad bby those times weren’t enough for me.” 

But the child’s father was watching. The boys’ parents later confronted Zamora in a recorded phone call, which served as key evidence in her eventual sexual abuse trial.

“What type of f--king perverted person are you?” the father asked Zamora. “I want to know right now. You are a f--king monster. You are a pedophile. You're a child molester. Do you understand that?”

In March 2018, the then-27-year-old married educator was arrested and charged with eight counts of sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of child molestation and one count of transmitting obscene material. 

The Arizona teacher sex scandal quickly rippled through America.

“It was just a case that was just so sensational and it was so salacious,” Bree Burkitt, a reporter for the Arizona Republic told Oxygen's "Dark Web Exposed." “The second you see that mugshot released and her name and age, it just blew up.”

Zamora groomed the boy for months using mobile messaging apps, and later pursued a sexual relationship with him. However, the 13-year-old’s phone was being monitored by his parents. Sentry, a parental control app, later caught a number of flirtatious messages between Zamora and her underage student. 

“It's essentially a monitoring app that flags certain words and conversations,” Burkitt explained.

The word, “baby,” had been caught several times.

“At first they thought, ‘Oh, he must have a girlfriend,’ Russ Riechelsoph, the family’s lawyer, told "Dark Web Exposed." “The boy told his parents that he was having a sexual relationship with his teacher. They didn't believe it. And so his father said, ‘Show me.’ He got on Instagram and messaged her in a sexually explicit way. And she messaged him back.”

Those conversations were only the tip of the iceberg, investigators would learn. 

“If I could quit my job and f--k you all day I would," Zamora wrote the boy in another message, according to court records previously obtained by Oxygen.com

“OMG, I love you,” she said in another. 

The 13-year-old told authorities he and Zamora had at least four sexual encounters in 2018, including one in Zamora’s car after a talent show and another in a school classroom while another student stood guard outside. His teacher also sent him nude photos.

“It’s, like, weird how a 27-year-old can, like, love a 13-year-old and do stuff,” the boy told law enforcement, according to the Arizona Republic. “It’s just crazy. She’s not a good person.”

Police Video of Teacher Brittney Zamora's Arrest for Alleged Child Molestation

Zamora is one of dozens of teachers who in the digital age have pursued sexual relationships with their students using popular messaging apps. 

“Technology has always been a way that predators contacted sexual targets, groomed them, and arranged sexual activities,” Charol Shakeshaft, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who’s researched teacher sexual misconduct, told Oxygen.com

Shakeshaft described these messaging apps, such as Snapchat, as a “medium over which school officials and parents have little control.”

In October 2019, Massachusetts high school teacher, Dorothy Bancroft Veracka was busted for soliciting nude photos from a teen student on Snapchat, according to a police report obtained by Oxygen.com. Veracka pleaded guilty to distributing obscene matter to a child and received a suspended sentence of two and a half years, according to court documents. She was released and will be on probation until March 2022.

Ryan Harvey, a former orchestra teacher in Georgia, was also arrested in 2018 after investigators learned he sent illicit images to a student via Snapchat, including one picture of him wearing only pink underwear, according to an indictment obtained by Oxygen.com. He later pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual misconduct against his minor students, court records show. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. 

“Snapchat is a particularly insidious platform,” Shakeshaft added. “Photos, messages, videos, live video chatting, and messaging can be shared and then disappeared. … Parents and other adults cannot keep an active record of their child's use. There is no moderation and parents have no way to know with whom the child is interacting.”  

In a statement to Oxygen.com, a Snapchat spokesperson said the company is dedicated to preventing abuses of its platform:

“The exploitation of any member of our community, especially minors, is absolutely unacceptable, and we work hard to prevent, detect and eliminate this type of abuse. We work closely with safety experts and law enforcement to develop more ways to combat sexual abuse, and work closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. All reports of child exploitation are quickly reviewed by our Trust and Safety Team, who typically takes action within just a couple of hours. We use PhotoDNA Technology to to identify known images of Child Sexual Abuse Imagery and report it to NCMEC, and have developed algorithmic capabilities to help us identify account behaviors that suggest abusive accounts or other suspicious activity.” 

Zamora’s case was never brought to trial. In June 2019, she pleaded guilty to sexual conduct with a minor, attempted molestation and public sexual indecency, and was sentenced to 20 years behind bars. She’s since filed for divorce from her husband.

Brittany Zamora

The family of her victim has also filed a $2.5 million civil lawsuit against the disgraced teacher and the school district. The suit alleges the child could suffer from “severe emotional and psychological symptoms due to the sexual abuse he experienced."

Zamora's husband was also named in the lawsuit, but he settled with the family for an undisclosed amount in 2019, according to the Arizona Republic.

“Brittany Zamora was a teacher,” Riechelsoph, the family’s attorney said. “She was supposed to be the adult in the room and there's no excuse. A 13-year-old can't seduce an adult.”

Zamora, now 29, is scheduled to be released in 2038, according to online jail records. She’ll be in her late 40s — and required to register as a sex offender — once she serves her sentence.

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