Following a long executive session Wednesday to discuss an investigative report about the Ketchikan School District’s actions related to a teacher accused of sexual abuse of a minor, the school board announced steps it plans to make.
Board President Matt Eisenhower said the board will start a sexual harassment and assault campaign. One part of that campaign will be a review of policies and procedures during a special work session sometime in January.
“Through this process, the district will surround ourselves with experts in the field, possibly including Norm Wooten, executive director of (Alaska Association of School Boards), possibly other district superintendents, expert attorneys, community experts, law enforcement and others,” he said. “The intent of this review will be to ensure that board policies and procedures are valid and up to date, actionable, and in line with the law and acceptable professional teaching standards.”
Eisenhower added that some steps will happen immediately. Those include staff and administrator training on sexual harassment and assault, with an emphasis on reviewing and knowing regulations and procedures.
“This training must include a re-emphasis of mandatory reporting requirements to (Office of Children Services) and other law enforcement agencies,” he said. “A special point of emphasis will be the reporting and documentation process, and creating a safe space and environment in which students and staff are encouraged to provide details concerning sexual assault or harassment allegations.”
Eisenhower said students, too, will receive instruction on appropriate behavior, and how to report inappropriate behavior with confidence that action will be taken.
He said some questions outside the scope of the investigation remain unanswered. To find those answers, Eisenhower said a committee will look into how complaints were received and responded to by administrators.
“This will include questions surrounding administrative decisions and responses in administrating these claims,” he said. “This committee will report back to the board as soon as possible.”
Eisenhower stressed that the board is still working on the issue, and is not taking it lightly.
The investigation started this summer following a complaint against Superintendent Robert Boyle, related to this spring’s criminal prosecution of former teacher Doug Edwards. Details of the complaint against Boyle are confidential.
Following that complaint, the board hired Seattle-based attorney Suzanne Michael, who then hired an investigator. That investigator’s full report was presented to the board on Dec. 4th. Wednesday provided more time for the board to discuss the report and come up with its plan.
Details from the investigation likely will not be released, out of concern that it could affect the criminal proceedings.
Edwards retired in spring. He was arrested just days after the last day of school and charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor. Prosecutors allege he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl at the high school, in his home and in the church where he was a pastor. His trial is currently scheduled for early March.