BRYANT — A former college professor fired after he was accused of stalking a student and was convicted of animal abuse, was reassigned Wednesday from his job at the Alexander Youth Services Center after an official with the state Department of Human Services was questioned about his position.
"We are informing Mr. [Curtis Ray] Freeman this afternoon that he will be moved from his Youth Services Worker II position to a position that does not involve direct contact with juveniles," department spokesman Joe Quinn said after he was contacted by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Freeman, 36, of Little Rock declined to comment Wednesday on his reassignment.
The Youth Services Division of the Department of Human Services hired Freeman in December to work with delinquent children at its detention center near Bryant, Quinn said. The agency conducted a criminal background check on Freeman before he was hired, Quinn said.
"We got some misdemeanor hits," Quinn said of the background check, but he did not know the specifics of those misdemeanors until this week.
Freeman was accused of stalking and harassing Anita Johnson, 41, of Little Rock while he was a history professor at Philander Smith College. The woman, a student who worked at the school, told authorities at the time that she had dated Freeman for about a month. She claimed he began stalking and tormenting her with disturbing telephone calls after she ended their relationship, and that he physically threatened her.
The college fired Freeman shortly before his arrest last October.
A municipal judge later ordered Freeman to stay away from the woman for a year or face up to 10 days in jail. Freeman's attorney said the misdemeanor charge eventually would be dismissed.
Freeman pleaded guilty in October to misdemeanor animal abuse and was ordered to serve a 10-day jail sentence. In addition, the judge ordered him to pay $1,279.50 in restitution and a $1,000 fine.
Authorities had earlier found his pet chow emaciated, dehydrated and unable to walk. It died at an animal hospital.
Quinn said misdemeanor convictions do not necessarily prevent a person from being hired by the department.
However, when asked if a person with Freeman's background should have a position supervising children, he said, "I'm not going to comment on that. That would be subjective."
However, "all of this is being checked as we speak," he said. The department's lawyers are reviewing "the specifics of the hiring and what was found on the background search."
The reassignment is the latest in a string of events that has brought critical attention to juvenile services in Arkansas. In June, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published a series of articles detailing allegations of abuse and mismanagement at some of the division's facilities, leading to a shake-up within the Youth Services Division.
The detention center, located near Bryant, also has been the scene of some recent escapes, attacks on employees and incidents of workers sleeping on the job.