School Matters, Sept. 2, 2022
Hello Rogers Family,
Welcome to the next installment of School Matters. It is our hope these broadcasts will help keep you informed of important events and initiatives within the district. A transcript of the presentation can be found on our website. Thank you for tuning in for this update and contact us if you have questions.
Just a quick reminder that schools will be closed this Monday on September 5 for Labor Day. We hope you are able to enjoy time with family and friends.
We have made a commitment to be open and transparent with everything that we do. It is not enough to be transparent only during the easy times. We must be transparent during the difficult and complicated times. The remaining of this broadcast is focused on one of those difficult times, but it is my hope the community will realize that we are committed to being open and transparent at all times.
We make extraordinary efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of all students under our care. In addition, we expect staff members to possess high professional and personal standards at all times. In the vast majority of cases, we are highly successful with this expectation. Any lack of moral judgement is extremely rare because the vast majority of our staff members possess a highly defined moral compass. However, we want to ensure parents that we will take immediate action when staff members fail to maintain the ethical standards expected by this district.
Yesterday, a former Rogers Public School staff member was charged with sexual assault for an alleged incident occurring last school year. Currently, the Rogers School District is working with local law enforcement to conduct a thorough and complete investigation of this allegation. As always, the safety and well-being of our students are a top priority. School administration took immediate action to protect the safety of students when we received credible information that something may have happened. The staff member in question resigned his position on August 29, 2022 and is no longer employed by the school district.
I fully understand that parents and community members may be extremely frustrated and angered over the lack of information and details connected with the case. I also understand that parents of children directly involved with the accused staff member, whether it was in the classroom or athletic program, want to know their children were not impacted. It is important to understand that the school district is not at liberty to share specific details at this point because there is an on-going investigation and the release of information can adversely impact that investigation. However, this would not prevent us from contacting parents if we thought their child had been mistreated or abused. We may not be able to share all details but we would notify parents if we have reason to believe their child was involved in any way.
We have pledged to be open and transparent in all issues and we will continue to do so. However, we must follow all state statutes and work with local law enforcement while they conduct their investigation. We are extremely fortunate to have a quality local law enforcement agency in Rogers and they are staffed with highly effective investigators. I have been impressed with the manner in which local law enforcement have conducted this investigation and the thoroughness they have used.
Although I am not able to share specific information about this case, I will provide a brief summary of how we respond to any situation involving a case of sexual misconduct. The process begins when we receive credible information that inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature has occurred. Our first action is to ensure the safety and well-being of the student. For this reason, we will normally place the accused staff member on administrative leave. We will ask the staff member not to attend any extra-curricular events, not to have any communication with students, and not be on any school property during the investigation. This doesn’t mean the staff member is guilty. We make no initial determination of either guilt or innocence at the beginning of the investigation. Removing the staff member from school protects the students from potential harm while also protecting the staff member from additional complications at school.
Second, we conduct a preliminary investigation to determine specific facts. This information will include the identity of the alleged victim, the approximate date of the alleged incident, and the basic nature of the alleged offense. Again, it is important to note the accused staff member has been placed on administrative leave and is not on school grounds during this investigation.
Third, as mandated by state law, the school district files the necessary reports and notification with the Arkansas State Police – Crimes Against Children Division, local law enforcement and the Arkansas Department of Education Board of Ethics. Typically, the Children’s Division will investigate the matter if the child is a minor. The Children’s Division will often work with local law enforcement and allow them to take the lead on the initial investigation. The State Police may become involved depending on the allegations. We will always contact parents if law enforcement officials need to talk with students at school. We encourage parents to be part of that interview if students are questioned at school by the police. Local law enforcement will proceed with criminal charges depending on the outcome of their investigation.
In addition, the State Board of Education created an Ethics Board and they will review the facts of the case. The Ethics Board is charged with the responsibility of determining if staff members have violated any of the ethical standards developed by the state. The Ethics Board has statutory authority to impose a wide variety of consequences if the staff member actions violate any of the ethical standards which range from probation to lifetime revocation of a teaching license. It is extremely important to note, that the school district is often asked to refrain from any additional investigation during this phase of the process. Our involvement can often complicate, and damage, the investigation of any one of these agencies.
Fourth, we follow up with the family of the alleged victim to offer counseling, help with school work, or any other type of assistance that is needed. In many cases, the student may not want to attend school for a short period of time and we develop some type of alternative education plan for them. Again, the safety and well-being of our students are a priority.
Fifth, the alleged staff member has a legal right to have a hearing in front of the school board to plead their case if the superintendent is recommending negative employment action which can include termination. The school board has the authority to follow the superintendent’s recommendation, overturn the recommendation, or take a different course of action. It is important to note that any staff member found guilty of sexual misconduct would likely lose their job, lose their teaching license, and face imprisonment.
Sixth, the school district will conduct an internal review to determine how this incident occurred if we substantiate the allegation. Following this review, we will make the necessary changes to practices, policies, protocols, and expectations to ensure the future safety of students. We will also do everything within our power to help the victim be successful and overcome any trauma they may have experienced.
I have been charged by the Rogers School Board to faithfully execute the duties of the superintendent of schools. Ultimately, I am accountable for this situation and I take full responsibility for what has occurred. I can’t change what has happened in the past but I can take the necessary steps to reduce this possibility in the future. I am also committed to providing assistance, counseling and support to any students who may have been adversely impacted.
It is important to understand that the Rogers Public School District is staffed with over 2,200 educators and support personnel who are highly committed to taking care of students. These individuals would never intentionally harm a child or place them in an uncomfortable situation. They possess a highly developed moral compass and have dedicated their lives to the care of children. However, there may be times in which staff members will make poor decisions and we will take immediate action. When this type of incident occurs, the trust in the school system is eroded and damaged to some degree. We understand this but we will not allow an isolated action to define our district. We are better than that. We will strive each day to rebuild that confidence and be worthy of the faith and trust we request from you. It is my sincere hope the community will see this commitment level to being open and transparent, as well as our focus on student safety, by the actions we have taken to address this issue.
As always, we will respond to any questions or concerns that parents may have in future broadcasts. We ask parents to contact Ashley, our communications director, at email@example.com or 631-3525 if you have questions and want a response. I sincerely appreciate your attention to this broadcast and remember, School Matters!