It is apparently OK for a school district’s top administrators to withhold information from the school board regarding allegations of sexual abuse made against one of the district’s teachers.
That was part of the message sent to parents by the Riverside District 96 school board last week as they tried to close the book on the controversy surrounding Ames School Principal Colleen Lieggi and a former part-time teacher who was run out of the district in 2011.
Not even at this date, with everything that’s known about the issue, do all of the school board members, least of all school board President Mary Ellen Meindl, believe for a second that two sets of allegations against the part-time teacher might be anything but an unhappy coincidence — one made good by a settlement agreement that made her disappear in exchange for paying her part-time salary for a few more months.
As for the more appalling of the two sets of allegations against the teacher, Meindl doesn’t think it was necessary for the district’s superintendent, the school’s principal or the district’s attorney to notify the board — the people elected to oversee the district for taxpayers. Police and a state agency had cleared the teacher of the allegations. Why bother the board with such troublesome information?
Board members ought to be outraged that top officials would keep such information from them. At the very least, it makes them look like they are being steamrolled by their employees.
The school board is entitled to know about such serious allegations, whether they were found out quickly to be false or not. They need to know that information simply to have a record of the event. What if additional allegations are made against the same teacher in the future?
In this instance, the future turned out to be two weeks later. Are there no board members who believe it might have raised some red flags when yet more allegations were leveled against this same teacher? And that those new allegations came from the same source? And that those allegations also apparently turned out to be questionable — so questionable that the district reportedly apologized to the teacher and offered her another job?
Meindl keeps stating that the two sets of allegations are separate and that the decision to reach a settlement with the teacher was based on the second set of allegations alone. Well, of course it was. You didn’t know about the first set of allegations — even though the school board met in executive session multiple times over many hours.
Somehow, during all of that time, no attorney or district administrator thought to mention, “You know, there’s this other matter from a few weeks ago you might want to know about …”
For school board members to continue to believe that there is no connection between the two sets of allegations boggles the mind. For them to insist that allegations of sexual abuse against an employee — false or not — need not be brought to their attention is irresponsible.
Again, who’s in charge here?