A summary of the final report of an investigation into the Ketchikan School District’s actions related to complaints about former teacher Doug Edwards was released Wednesday.
Six complaints were submitted about the former Ketchikan High School culinary arts teacher, citing inappropriate physical contact with female students, staff and others.
The complaints were made between 2013 and 2018. The most recent one was in February of last year. Edwards was warned on several occasions to stop touching others, and in January of 2018 was placed on two-day administrative leave.
The final incident, reported in early February of last year, led to then-Superintendent Robert Boyle telling Edwards that he would not sign Edwards’ upcoming teaching certificate renewal. Soon after, Edwards announced he would resign.
Edwards was arrested just days following his retirement, and charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor. Police say he admitted to molesting a 14-year-old girl on multiple occasions.
His arrest prompted demands for answers from the public. That led to the investigation, commissioned by the Ketchikan School Board.
School Board President Matt Eisenhower distributed copies of the executive summary during a recent board meeting. He says he had just received them that night from the board’s attorney.
“I apologize to the board and to the public for the lateness of that,” he said. “We committed to having that done by December, but that was out of our control and at the mercy of their offices that got hit by vacations and holidays.”
Eisenhower says the attorney and investigator compiled the summary without board input or influence. Information that might lead to identifying victims or affecting the ongoing criminal case was left out.
The summary did provide some details, though. According to the report, the district followed policy in five of the six documented complaints about Edwards, but the policies themselves are inadequate. The report states there are multiple policies that could apply to an incident, and none provide guidance for those who want to make a complaint about which policy to cite.
Which policy is used to make a complaint can make a difference in how the district responds.
The one complaint where the district was found to not have complied with policy was a Jan. 9, 2018, report from a student who had delayed making a complaint. The district had only written notes about that student’s report, and those did not include the student’s name.
One incident in 2016 showed partial compliance with policy. That involved a Kayhi administrator who saw Edwards rubbing a female staff member’s chest and back. The administrator waited five days to report it to the superintendent, instead of reporting it within one day as required. Also, the summary report states, the woman might not have completely understood her options for submitting a complaint.
While the independent investigation is over, the school board isn’t done looking into this issue. During the board meeting, Eisenhower appointed Board Members Rachel Breithaupt, Bridget Mattson and Glen Thompson to serve on a special committee to work with district administrators on a continued internal investigation of the district’s actions.
Superintendent Boyle resigned in December following completion of the external investigation. Eisenhower says acting Superintendent Beth Lougee will lead the internal investigation, with direction from the special committee.
That was the first school board meeting since Boyle submitted his resignation, so formal acceptance of that action was on the agenda. Board Member Diane Gubatayao was the only no vote.
She says she agrees the district needed a change in leadership, but the timing was not good. She says failures of the school system related to Doug Edwards are systemic, and therefore she as a board member also is at fault.
Gubatayao says Boyle did a lot of good things for the district. She cited his work collaborating with local tribal groups, special summer enrichment programs, and more.
“So this is how I choose to remember Bob’s contributions to our district among others, and not focus on his shortcomings because we all have shortcomings,” she said.
The Ketchikan School Board also talked about starting the search for a new superintendent. Timi Tullis from the Association of Alaska School Boards offered assistance to the board, which will discuss that more during its next meeting on Jan. 23rd.
Here is a copy of the summary report: Executive Summary KGBSD December 30