Custodian story on KIRO

Apparently KIRO TV is running a story about a custodian who has been accused by a few people from one family of acting inappropriately with students at one of our elementaries.

The word from his union, Local 609, is that none of the things being said about this custodian doing anything wrong are true.  It is true that he sometimes is in the lunchroom during lunch and that he worked with students in the chess club.  There is also a video clip of the custodian breaking up a playground fight (which is pretty much what you would expect any adult on the scene to do). 

The custodian does have a number of arrests since 1997 as well as a theft conviction in 2002. 

KIRO makes it sound like there was a police investigation of one incident when, in fact, the police were called on one occasion and the report states:

The reporting officer goes on to say in conclusion: “I found no evidence of any criminal activity.” 

One of the complaints is by one person who wonders why a custodian has any interaction with children. Personally, I find that an odd statement as most custodians are in the building during school hours.  The kids at my sons' elementary school knew their custodian well and he was a favorite.

 I understand that the district has looked into this and says the allegations are "unfounded" and they may have contacted KIRO about the running of this story and the "facts" put forth.

According to the union rep: Mr. Harris has the support of the Leschi staff, administration, the central office, and the broader Leschi community. 

Update:  I watched the KIRO TV piece and I think it was quite the hatchet job.   They did everything they could to make the custodian look suspicious.  They talked ONLY to the two parents involved and not one other parent, teacher, principal or staff member.  Nothing they said was untrue but they slanted the piece to be sensationalized for broadcast. 

Part of the district's statement:
While Mr.X is a custodian, he also works in cooperation with the non-profit Seattle Music Partners after school. He is familiar with the rules of conduct in a school building and has read and followed the school handbook. It is typical for custodians to assist in the school and have contact with children. 

According to school staff, Mr. X is very well respected in the school community


KG said…
Typical news media going after a working person, instead of large abusive corporations.
Dave said…
KIRO should be ashamed of themselves. The report was total contrivance.

In many schools, the custodian is the one adult many students relate to one on one.

Its another aspect of a truly sick media.
Dave said…
The fact of the matter is that the Howard family's children are not even supposed to be enrolled at Leschi but the District has not yet assigned them to their proper school even though they are well aware of the mis-assignment.

Do all families get the same (nod & wink) allowance?
Noam said…
Hey KG:

KIRO IS a large abusive corporation and this phoney "story" shows it.
Anonymous said…
Only tangentially related, but one thing I loved about our SPS elementary was the way the custodian was integrated into the rest of the staff and was respected by students and staff alike. When I went to school, albeit not in Seattle, the custodian was not respected. He was a shadowy figure; kids were afraid of him and/or made fun of him. Here in Seattle I don't see any of that aspect of treating custodians (or lunchroom personnel) as "the help." At middle and high school there is less family feeling than in elementary, but all the workers seem to be respected.
KG said…
Seems like the Reverend hear has issues.
Anonymous said…
At my kid's school the Custodian is sometimes the first positive adult male role model the students meet. (Sadly there are still too few female custodians in our district...) He makes the kindergarten boys feel important by letting them "help" him walk around the hallways for a few minutes when they get too active for the kindergarten classroom. He is a hero who can fix anything, no matter which run-down building he gets assigned to, maintaining it all year-around. He mediates and calms conflict on the playground. He keeps the cafeteria floor and the bathrooms clean (both are a real disaster after lunch), the playgrounds tidy. Thank you, Custodians!

-Grateful Mom
Anonymous said…
KIRO has a buffet of wrongs to choose from at SPS so why this man and why now? Why aren't they putting the Big Fish on the fire?

Mr White
Longhouse said…
From KIRO:

"A criminal background check on Harris shows he has a 2002 theft conviction. He's also been arrested and charged with 6 other crimes since 1997 without conviction: an alcohol offense involving a minor, harassment, obstruction, failure to render assistance, possession of marijuana, and fourth-degree domestic violence assault."

What? Charged with six other crimes?

I don't know this custodian, but nobody with this much criminal history (even with only one conviction) shouldn't be around children. That includes a custodian, a teacher, principal, secretary, cafeteria worker.

Sure people can be falsely accused of crimes, but six times?

Something's wrong here.

With that said, it would have been nice to see KIRO put as much effort into investigating Lowell principal Gregory King, or even Silas Potter or MGJ. I'd love to see some hidden camera video on any of them. Now THAT would be interesting.
Jan said…
Longhouse -- I am not sure I agree. No convictions may mean that they never even took these to trial -- charges were dropped. I don't know this guy, but I think the police are sufficiently out of line (at least in Seattle) -- and especially (but not only) if he is a minority -- that merely being arrested and charged doesn't give me much of a sense of what happened.
Longhouse said…
I know what you're saying, Jan, but man... six times (actually seven counting the conviction).

It certainly is true that cops everywhere manufacture charges and evidence... but this many times?

I know he's only been convicted of one and I rarely believe it's just to think "where there's smoke there's fire," but how often do you see a school employee with seven actual charges brought against them? Being charged is usually a lot more serious than just being arrested.

If I remember, for my teaching certificate I think I even had to state whether I'd even been arrested (no), let alone charged or convicted.

Looking at the KIRO report, it is a nasty hatchet job and completely unfair to Mr. Harris. It does look like he was breaking up a fight and that the Howards have an axe to grind.

Still... the number of criminal charges is of concern. I'd like to see the district find out the nature and circumstances of those charges.
DaveDoc said…
What a dumb report from KIRO. Must be ratings week or something for them to stoop this low. Having worked in schools as a "janitor " for 35 years (10 hrs. In Elementary schools) I was involved in both lunchroom and playground areas. I had to break up many fights not because I wanted to but because if I didn't someone would get hurt. My first year there was a fight in the play court that I just watched which resulted in one of the kids spitting gobs of blood out of his mouth. Then a little girl in kindergarten came up to me and asked why I didn't break up the fight. From then on I felt it was my duty as an adult even though I was just the school janitor to protect all children. There are always sour pusses who think their kids can do no wrong that are holier than everyone else and who start such nonsense. I went beyond my cleaning duties to the benefit of staff and students as do many custodians.
Ed said…

Ever see the statistics on the number of arrests vs. convictions for the black population compared to caucasions in our society?

Yes, something IS wrong but KIRO isnt going to find it with this level of "news".
Anonymous said…
To their credit, KIRO posted the full report from the independent investigator SPS hired to review the Howard family's allegations:

The fact that this report seems to clear Mr. Harris, while casting doubt on the allegedly aggrieved pupil and his family, somehow failed to deter KIRO from running with this absurd and destructive story.

Chester Harris is a broadly-appreciated member of the Leschi community. This story and the salacious claims promoted by KIRO don't pass the smell test.

Proud Father of a Leschi First-Grader
Go Bullpups!
Anonymous said…
If you are interested in knowing how those who work closest with him (staff and administration) feel about this horrific "investigative report" see the following link:

The ENTIRE staff stands behind Mr. Harris. Kiro should be ashamed.
Anonymous said…
Mr. Harris is nothing but the best. I have never before met a more humble, hard-working, dedicated man. He puts others before himself, cares deeply about the children and staff at Leschi, and is generous to a fault.

The family involved in this story, on the other hand, have been abusive to no less than 12 members of the Leschi staff. Staff members have been threatened, bullied, and harassed by this family excessively, often as a result of complete fabrications made by the children. Instead of working with teachers and staff for the good of their children if a problem does arise, the family lodges a complaint directly with the superintendent (or now, with the news media); this does not model effective problem solving or communication. One phrase often used by the younger brother of the student making the allegations is, "You have to let me get my way or I'll get you fired. I know how." What child would use such a phrase in first and second grade, if not being groomed by a parent to do so?

Shame on KIRO, yes. But a bigger questions is: Why does the district allow this family to continue their assault on our staff, children, and community? Surely there is more the district can do to protect our children and our colleagues from personal vendettas and abuse.

A Proud Member of the Leschi Team
SPSLeaks said…
More blowback on KIRO's report:

KIRO's muckraking report
Anonymous said…
This is awful - the media is always so anxious to report the "bad" things about schools, but they never want the truth, nor do they report the good things. It is pretty clear their story is backfiring on them; makes me wonder who in that family knows a KIRO employee.

I once had a parent interviewed by a Seattle Times reporter and she laid on such a line of BS about the amount of work her poor third grader was being asked to do and the ridiculous assignments and how she had to come to school to help him get his work done because I wouldn't help him. She neglected to mention that she'd taken her kid out of school for a whole week for a snowboarding trip (not to mention several other absences where he was "sick"), that she had signed a slip agreeing to the assignment her child wanted to do (required some travel to historical spots around Seattle), and that her child never came to school with his homework completed because she claimed it interfered with his family time, even though my other students reported that he played video games every afternoon either with them or by himself. After the article was printed, I presented the reporter with the facts - including the signed slip the parent had returned indicating that she wanted to do this project with her child and agreed to drive to these places, the absence report for the child, and some reactions from my other parents about the article. She wasn't interested in correcting the BS that she had written about me, nor were her bosses, despite numerous phone calls, emails, and letters from my principal and the union lawyer. Luckily I had some fabulous parents who made numerous comments on the ST article and called out the other parent on her BS and other shenanigans (lying about staff) to the extent that they eventually moved.

I'm glad to see the Leschi staff is behind this custodian. I hope KIRO is prepared to eat crow and do some PR work to help repair the character assassination they have attempted to pull.

BTW KIRO - FYI: libel
1) n. to publish in print (including pictures), writing or broadcast through radio, television or film, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others. Libel is the written or broadcast form of defamation, distinguished from slander, which is oral defamation. It is a tort (civil wrong) making the person or entity (like a newspaper, magazine or political organization) open to a lawsuit for damages by the person who can prove the statement about him/her was a lie.

Media sucks
mirmac1 said…
Libel, a concept Halsne does not grasp:

Okla. Court of Appeals decides against Halsne

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