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April 23, 2010

Benton Community School District Response Regarding Recent Reports Concerning Personnel Matter

The Benton Community School District has significant concerns about several inaccuracies in information that has recently been reported in the media regarding a personnel matter that the district addressed during the 2005-06 school year. It is important that the patrons of our district understand that matters such as these frequently involve confidential information and limit the district’s ability to disclose certain information to the public.

The personnel matter in question involved concerns about an employee’s inappropriate comments and discussions with students in the district. Once the district’s administration was made aware of concerns about the employee’s conduct, it contacted the district’s legal counsel immediately and commenced an investigation into those concerns. The district’s investigation consisted of interviewing several parties including students and parents and hiring computer forensic experts to retrieve information from and analyze the employee’s school computer and two other computers. Students and parents were cooperative throughout the district’s investigation. The district appropriately preserved the evidence it collected.

Throughout the district’s investigation it consulted with and followed the advice of legal counsel. The district’s investigation found that the employee had inappropriately communicated with students and the district believed the employee’s actions warranted terminating his employment with the district. After a meeting with the employee to review the results of the district’s investigation, the employee chose to resign and the District’s Board of Directors accepted the employee’s resignation in January 2006.

At the time, the district did consider filing a complaint with the Board of Educational Examiners against the employee, however the employee had not engaged in any conduct that would have legally required the district to file a complaint. Furthermore, district legal counsel advised that to file a complaint with the Board of Educational Examiners would have required the district to disclose the names of students who had cooperated with the investigation. Based on these factors, the district’s legal counsel advised the district to not file a complaint with the Board of Educational Examiners and the district followed this advice.

After the employee’s resignation was accepted by the Board in January 2006, the County Attorney contacted the district’s legal counsel seeking information from the district’s investigation that included confidential information from the employee’s personnel file and confidential student record information and served a subpoena on the district requesting this information. In February 2006, the Iowa district court ordered the district to provide to the County Attorney the information requested in his subpoena.

In January 2008, the district changed legal counsel. In August 2009, the Board of Directors chose to revisit this matter and made a decision to file a complaint with the Board of Educational Examiners against the former employee. The district followed the advice of legal counsel and cooperated fully with the Board of Educational Examiners regarding this matter. While the final order from the Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE) is a public record, other documentation or information that may have been provided to the BOEE in order to fully investigate this matter are not public records. In February 2010, instead of contesting this matter before the Board of Educational Examiners, the former employee agreed to waive his right to a hearing and voluntarily surrendered his teaching license. Since the final order has been publicly disclosed the school district has no further comments on the complaint.

The Benton Community School District remains committed to providing a safe learning environment for its students where they can continue to pursue a quality education for a lifetime of learning.

UPDATED April 26, 2010 1:53 PM

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