A rabbi for a national youth group based in Rockville and a Prince George's County special education teacher have lost their jobs after they were allegedly videotaped by a hidden camera as part of a forthcoming "Dateline NBC" story about men who try to solicit sex from minors online, officials said yesterday.
Rabbi David A. Kaye, 55, vice president of programs for PANIM: the Institute for Jewish Leaders and Values, resigned this week after disclosing that he might be featured on a national television news program, according to a statement released by the organization's president, Rabbi Sidney Schwarz.
Schwarz said Kaye, who lives in Potomac, "informed me of certain personal conduct that took place outside our organization that may soon be aired as part of a larger news story on national television. . . . We currently are undertaking an internal inquiry to be certain there has been no similar misconduct at PANIM in any way." The organization conducts nationwide programs for high school students.
Steven Bennof, 54, of the District, a special education teacher at Woodridge Elementary School in Prince George's, was fired Aug. 23, said John White, a spokesman for the school system. White said the firing occurred after Fairfax County police notified school officials about "information relating to children."
Neither man has been criminally charged. Kaye told a reporter Wednesday evening that he had resigned for personal reasons, declining to elaborate. Bennof did not return a message left on his telephone answering machine.
The "Dateline NBC" show is scheduled to air tonight. According to video excerpts that NBC officials provided yesterday and a summary posted on "Dateline's" Web site, a crew conducted a sting operation with the help of an Internet watchdog group, Perverted Justice.
Adult members of the watchdog group pretended to be 12- to 14-year-old children chatting online and waited to see whether adults would contact them to solicit sex, NBC officials said. According to the program excerpts and NBC officials, many men did so, and 19 men visited a house in a Washington suburb over a three-day period in mid-August after a person posing online as a child provided the address. There, they were confronted by "Dateline" reporter Chris Hansen.
In the video excerpts provided by "Dateline," a man whom the program identifies as Kaye walks into the kitchen of a house and is soon met by Hansen. Without identifying himself as a journalist, Hansen begins peppering the man with questions about his Internet activities and his presence at the house. After the man asks Hansen for the second time who he is, the reporter explains that he is with "Dateline" and that the program is taping a story about men who visit Internet chat rooms in pursuit of children.
The excerpts also show Hansen confronting a man identified in the voiceover as a special education teacher. Hansen said in an interview yesterday that the show identified Bennof by a phone number he provided over the Internet and through contacting the school district.
The house "Dateline" used is in Fairfax County, Hansen said. Fairfax police said yesterday that they are investigating information provided by Perverted Justice but that they would not provide further details.