The Ketchikan School Board agreed Wednesday to meet in special session on Monday to vote on an investigator contract with Anchorage attorney Clint Campion.
If Campion’s contract is approved, he’ll look into the Ketchikan School District’s actions related to former Ketchikan High School teacher Doug Edwards. Edwards is charged with sexual assault of a minor for allegedly abusing a 14-year-old girl at the school, as well as other locations.
The board heard Wednesday from several members of the public on that topic. One was a Kayhi student who we will not identify. The student told the board that Edwards assaulted and harassed her at the school, and that she reported him to administrators.
The student told the board that she wasn’t taken seriously, and administrators recommended that she just try avoiding Edwards. She said dozens of girls reported Edwards and also were ignored. The student said she wants justice for all the victims, and for the district to be held accountable for its “negligence.”
Ketchikan District Attorney Ben Hofmeister also spoke to the board. He said he was not making any recommendation about the district’s plan for an investigation, but he did have some suggestions for timing, especially the release of information once an investigation is complete.
Hofmeister said to ensure that a trial is fair to everyone involved, it’s important that the potential jury pool – Ketchikan citizens – is not tainted by outside information.
“If a report that has information that may or may not be pertinent to what the allegations are and would not come into trial as evidence is given to the jury, the chances of having a change of venue or any other kinds of consequences that might result from that are far greater,” he said.
Hofmeister said a criminal case like this one generally takes 12 to 18 months to resolve, sometimes longer. He recommended that the school board hire an attorney to advise them on this issue, specifically.
School Board President Trevor Shaw told the board later that Campion is a former district attorney, and has worked extensively in criminal prosecution.
“That’s one of the things I’ve talked to Mr. Campion about, if he would provide the board with specific recommendations – because he is an attorney – and so he is more than willing to fulfill the counseling role, as well, on how to proceed with the investigation and the structure of how that would be conducted,” Shaw said.
The board’s special meeting on Monday is scheduled for noon. The packet for that meeting will include Campion’s proposed contract.
At the end of Wednesday’s meeting, board members thanked the Kayhi student for coming forward and telling them about her experiences. Glen Thompson called the situation “heartbreaking” and said the district needs to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Diane Gubatayao said it’s difficult for victims to come forward and speak, especially publicly.
“My fear is that there are probably quite a few victims out there because, we know from movements like the Me, Too movement and some of those other movements that people keep things to themselves,” She said. “So, my fear is we probably have a lot of victims out there we don’t even know about and so we need to do justice for them, as well.”
Doug Edwards was the long-time culinary arts teacher at Ketchikan High School. He retired at the end of this school year, and was charged just days after with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor.
Below is a link to an earlier report about Edwards’ criminal case.