Memo #1 about whether 4 employees fulfilled their mandatory reporting obligations. Memo #2 is about Lowell Elementary School: complaints by two employees. Number three is a letter to HR head, Paul Apostle, in response to the assertions of Rina Geoghagan and Gregory King about the Report (memo #1).
One, there are only two people are named - Rina Geoghagan and Gregory King, both administrators at Lowell. Everyone else gets a code. It does make it difficult to follow the narrative.
Two, I am deeply saddened at this outcome as it leaves a lot of questions and for the Lowell community much worry.
Three, there is something to be learned here starting with the basics.
Every - single - person in SPS needs to know the protocol about reporting issues around adult and student interaction.
Every - single - administrator MUST be trained on the protocol and asked if they can be responsible for issues reported to them and be able to carry out investigations.
Yarmuth Wilsdon Calfo, the same law firm that did the review of what the Board knew in the Silas Potter case, did the investigation of this issue.
This is a simple story that got completely out of hand. It started in January of 2011.
Two different Lowell employees, independent of each other, observed what each thought was troubling behavior by an employee with students including one who is non-verbal. This included sitting on a stool and hugging student front-to-front with the IA's legs spread. It also included some kind of interaction with a student's foot, with shoe and sock off, near the employee's mouth.
To be clear, NEITHER complainant EVER alleged ANY abuse, sexual or otherwise.
It seems to me, as a parent, the kind of behavior where anyone might pause and say, "hmm, that's odd." The two complainants both mentioned the need for possible updates/retraining on student-to-adult interaction.
After the two complainants had made their concerns known, and nothing happened, then C#2 told the school nurse who told her supervisor who went to district Safety and Security.
A third employee later saw the foot behavior and reported it as well.
At no time was CPS called.
Or that was it and yet it escalated into something bigger. The two complainants ended up being investigated, left their jobs over the stress and had to wait a year to be fully exonerated. All because they worried over someone's inappropriate behavior that could have been corrected with a reminder or more training.
The two people who made reports to Rina Geoghagan about the Lowell employee ended up filing an ethics complaint against the district, alleging retaliation by Lowell administrators.
The RCW states “professional school employees” (which includes teachers, counselors, administrations, child are facility personnel and school nurses) to report when they have “reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered from abuse or neglect.”
This includes “intentional touching, either directly or indirectly through clothing”
The reporting requirements of the WAC 388-15-009(3) do NOT turn on whether the alleged abuse actually occurred; rather, mandatory reporters are required to report abuse when they have reasonable cause to believe it has occurred.
The memo concludes that law enforcement did NOT need to be called because there was not enough information in April 2010 to believe there was sexual abuse harmful to a child's health or safety and were not obligated to report the allegations to law enforcement.
This memo involves the interviews with six employees including Gregory King and Rina Geroghagan.
C#2 had gone to Ms. Reoghagan about this issue. There is a difference of opinion as to whether C#2 had mentioned the foot issue to Ms. Geoghagan. Geoghagan then went to King who seemed to believe the report was about race.
“King took no responsive action, believing he could not be objective."
C#1 saw the same behavior from the employee and, with C#2, tried to report it to the administrators (but could not find them in the building). Neither C#1 or #2 reported their concerns by e-mail to anyone.
Then, for some reason (which became clear later), an investigation was launched at headquarters of C#1 and C#2 based on the administrators denying that they knew of some of the allegations.
C#1 and #2 both received letters telling them they did not follow "proper guidelines" in reporting their concerns.
C#2, upset by the letter, resigned her position in a letter to district officials, worrying about proving the correctness of her position and the influence an investigation would have on her annual evuluation. Geoghagan “accepted” the resignation.
Meantime, the employee denied kissing the foot and was not told of complaints by C1 and C2. The employee was cleared but only his version of his behavior was credited in the investigation at the school even though a third employee had seen the behavior.
C#2 tried to retraction her resignation and was told it would “work out” by a headquarters adminstrator who did not know of the investigation against C#2 or the circumstances of C#2’s resignation.
C1 filed an ethics complaint through ethics hotline, saying actions against her and C#2 were retaliatory.
The investigation of C#1 and C#2 by the district cleared them in May 2011 of any misconduct.
C2 filed a complaint against Geoghagan, King and a central adminstrator, alleging that the investigation and the refusal to accept her resignation retraction was retaliatory or at least improper. C1 also filed a complaint.
There was evidence that C#2 had reported concerns to Geoghagan in Jan. 2011. Geoghagan’s notes reflect meeting with C#2 and her concerns over the employee but they do not reflect the foot issue. When asked Geoghagan said C#2 “might have” reported that incident.
King admits he met with Geoghagan and was told about C#2’s complaints against the IA. But he said he didn’t have any details.
From the report:
“I did not find King’s denial credible. His body language, lack of eye contact, and demeanor when answering questions on this subject suggested he was being untruthful.”
While he denied knowing the substance of the reports, he did appear to conclude that they were racially-motiviated and he chose not to take any action.
“The evidence suggests the district’s decision to investigage C#1 and C#2 was the “result of rushed decision-making and a failure to consider all relevant facts (in part because King and Geoghagan did not disclose them)."
“As discussed below, there is evidence that King encouraged the investigation for dubious reasons but he was not solely responsible for the decision to investigate. Evidence suggests that the decision can mostly be attributed to an incomplete and rushed process.
“Other evidence, including email, shows that King was very involved in initiating the investigation and that he was originally going to conduct it. His claims to the contrary – indeed, he claims he played no role in the decision to investigate – are simply not credible, nor is his lack of memory about the April 6th meeting."
It appears that Principal King thought he saw a racial motive and it may have blinded him to any other facts.
He “did not understand the rules related to reporting child abuse…”
King could not identify any policies or statues that govern reporting of suspected abuse. Thus while advocating for (and planning to conduct) an investigation into whether reporting protocols had been followed, King himself had little understanding of these standards.”
“When one of the school employees she talked to shared C#2’s concerns or witnessed the behavior, she dismissed the complaint as unsubstantiated. She did report it to King who did nothing."
She did not share knowledge of the foot-kissing to E5 and this contributed to the investigation against C#1 and #2.
“She also now claims she does not know why C#1 and #2 were investigated. This seems incongruent with the fact that she sent letters notifying them of the investigation and was personally going to conduct it.”
“In fact, Goeghagan states she would never want to decide whether someone should call CPS if she had not personally witnessed the purposed abuse.”
“E5 had little reason to be skeptical of the Lowell administrators’ statements."
C#2 rescission of her resignation
-District policy is to not allow employees to retract a resignation. This was not retaliatory.
Letter to Paul Apostle
After the district provided a copy of the Report to Geoghagan and King and disciplined them for findings made in the Report, King’s attorney Susan Mindenbergs challenged some of the Report’s factual findings and conclusions.
In a meeting with Patty Eakes, Ron English, King and Mindenbergs, King’s lawyer presented a different factual chronology.
Geoghagan was re-interviewed by Eakes with Goeghagan’s attorney Jeffrey Tyler present. She denies C#2 reported foot-kissing in January. Both Geoghagan and King deny knowing about foot-kissing but “I did not find the Lowell Adminstrators’ changed statements credible. “
King had been advised by Safety and Security to notify his supervisor, CA 2.
King says he doesn’t know why E#3 came to Lowell but King's denials “aren’t credible.”
Geoghagan confirms King did not direct her to investigate in January and that he really gave her no guidance as a new assistant principal. This was her first investigation and she felt unqualified to handle it.
King says he didn’t investigate because he “was too busy.” But then he put forth that he didn’t get involved because it was about race. But Geoghagan said he never told her he was too busy.
Geoghagan never did an investigation. She did not interview witnesses but just met with the employee and E#2 in the classroom. Her “conclusion” was that the allegations were unsubstantiated.
“This is a far cry from ‘a thorough investigation to ensure that the children at Lowell are safe’ as Mindenbergs stated in her Feb. 29, 2012 letter.
It is unclear to me what the current situation is with the Lowell administrators. I would think this is not the last we will hear about this situation.