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Amid a sexual incident investigation, the Union School District will pay teacher to go away

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 6:59 PM CDT
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LA PORTE CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The‌ ‌teacher‌ ‌who‌ ‌resigned‌ ‌amid‌ ‌an‌ ‌investigation‌ ‌into‌ ‌a‌ ‌sexual‌ ‌incident‌ ‌‌will‌ ‌receive‌ ‌a‌ ‌payout‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌promise‌ ‌of‌ ‌secrecy‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌district‌ ‌as‌ ‌part‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌separation‌ ‌agreement‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌Union‌ ‌School‌ ‌District.‌‌

‌The‌ ‌resignation‌ ‌agreement‌ ‌signed‌ on April 5th‌,‌ ‌which‌ ‌our‌ ‌KCRG-TV9‌ ‌i9‌ ‌Investigative‌ ‌Unit‌ ‌received‌ ‌through‌ ‌a‌ ‌public‌ ‌records‌ ‌request,‌ ‌requires‌ ‌the‌ ‌Union‌ ‌School‌ ‌District‌ ‌to pay‌ ‌Mark‌ ‌Hookham‌ ‌his‌ ‌remaining‌ ‌salary‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌2021‌ ‌school‌ ‌year‌ ‌along‌ ‌with‌ ‌benefits‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌$15,000‌ ‌lump‌ ‌sum‌ ‌payment.

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The‌ ‌district‌ ‌also‌ ‌agreed‌ ‌to‌ ‌give‌ ‌only‌ ‌the‌ ‌dates‌ ‌of‌ ‌Hookham’s‌ ‌employment‌ ‌if‌ ‌another‌ ‌employer‌ ‌contacts‌ ‌Union‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌reference.‌ ‌The‌ ‌agreement‌ ‌also‌ ‌states‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌no‌ ‌admission‌ ‌of‌ ‌violating‌ ‌district‌ ‌policies,‌ ‌procedures‌‌, and‌ ‌laws.‌‌‌

‌Hookham‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌middle‌ ‌school‌ ‌science‌ ‌teacher‌ ‌but‌ ‌was‌ ‌placed‌ ‌on‌ ‌paid‌ ‌administrative‌ ‌leave‌ ‌in‌ ‌March‌ ‌as‌ ‌part‌ ‌of‌ ‌an‌ ‌internal‌ ‌investigation.‌ ‌Travis‌ ‌Fleshner,‌ ‌who‌ ‌is‌ ‌the‌ ‌Union‌ ‌School‌ ‌Superintendent‌ ‌told‌ ‌TV9‌ ‌‌‌earlier‌ ‌in‌ ‌April ‌that‌ ‌the investigation‌ ‌centered‌ ‌around‌ ‌inappropriate‌ ‌email‌ ‌exchanges‌ ‌with‌ ‌middle‌ ‌school‌ ‌students.‌ ‌The‌ ‌district‌ ‌has‌ ‌declined‌ ‌to‌ ‌give‌ ‌any‌ ‌other‌ ‌details‌ ‌publicly,‌ ‌citing‌ ‌employee‌ ‌privacy‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌ongoing‌ ‌investigation.‌

Hookham‌ ‌has‌ ‌not‌ ‌been‌ ‌charged‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌crime,‌ ‌but‌ ‌court‌ ‌documents‌ ‌show‌ ‌the‌ ‌Dysart‌ ‌Police‌ ‌Department‌ ‌received‌ ‌a‌ ‌search‌ ‌warrant‌ ‌to‌ ‌take‌ ‌property‌ ‌belonging‌ ‌to‌ ‌Hookham.‌ ‌Those‌ ‌documents‌ ‌are‌ ‌sealed‌ ‌because‌ ‌a‌ ‌Tama‌ ‌County‌ ‌magistrate‌ ‌judge‌ ‌said‌ ‌the‌ ‌details‌ ‌could‌ ‌seriously‌ ‌jeopardize‌ ‌the‌ ‌investigation‌ ‌and‌ ‌possibly‌ ‌infringe‌ ‌upon‌ ‌the‌ ‌rights‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌victim‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌rights‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌other‌ ‌people‌ ‌involved.‌‌

The first‌ ‌complaint‌ ‌came‌ ‌in‌ ‌December, but ‌the investigation‌ ‌started‌ ‌in‌ ‌March‌‌

‌Fleshner‌ ‌said‌ ‌the‌ ‌district‌ ‌was‌ ‌first‌ ‌made‌ ‌aware‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌complaint‌ ‌against‌ ‌Hookham‌ ‌in‌ ‌December‌ ‌2020.‌ ‌That’s‌ ‌about‌ ‌three‌ ‌months‌ ‌before‌ ‌the‌ ‌district‌ ‌started‌ ‌its‌ ‌investigation‌ ‌‌in‌ ‌March‌.‌ ‌A‌ ‌week‌ ‌later,‌ ‌he‌ ‌was‌ ‌placed‌ ‌on‌ ‌administrative‌ ‌leave.‌‌ Hookham‌ ‌was‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌classroom‌ ‌with‌ ‌students‌ ‌up‌ ‌until‌ ‌then.‌‌

‌Fleshner‌ ‌said‌ ‌the‌ ‌delay‌ ‌happened‌ ‌because‌ ‌more‌ ‌information‌ ‌became‌ ‌available‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌school.‌‌‌

‌“More‌ ‌information‌ ‌became‌ ‌available‌ ‌as‌ ‌we‌ ‌kept‌ ‌looking‌ ‌into‌ ‌things,”‌ ‌Fleshner‌ ‌said.‌‌

‌Fleshner‌ ‌said‌ ‌the‌ ‌district‌ ‌chose‌ ‌to‌ ‌come‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌resignation‌ ‌agreement‌ ‌because‌ ‌the‌ ‌school‌ ‌board‌ ‌decided‌ ‌that‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌the‌ ‌best‌ ‌part‌ ‌forward.‌‌‌

‌“There are‌ ‌several‌ ‌considerations‌ ‌that‌ ‌would‌ ‌go‌ ‌into‌ ‌that‌ ‌[the‌ ‌resignation‌ ‌agreement],”‌ ‌he‌ ‌said.‌ ‌”You‌ ‌know‌ ‌with‌ ‌any‌ ‌agreement,‌ ‌you‌ ‌look‌ ‌at‌ ‌timing,‌ ‌several‌ ‌considerations‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌board‌ ‌just‌ ‌decided‌ ‌that‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌their‌ ‌best‌ ‌path‌ ‌forward.”‌‌

‌I9‌ ‌reached‌ ‌out‌ ‌to‌ ‌every‌ ‌single‌ ‌member‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌school‌ ‌board‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌further‌ ‌explanation‌ ‌multiple‌ ‌times‌ ‌but‌ ‌have‌ ‌not‌ ‌heard‌ ‌back.‌‌

Dr. Elizabeth Jeglic, who is a professor at John Jay College in New York and wrote books about protecting children from sexual abuse, said the investigation might not appear on a background check because the district offered a resignation agreement.

However, it will appear on a background check if charges are filed.

“If somebody has been fired, you [then] ask why were they have been fired?” she said. “If they are not providing any information other than the dates of employment. Then you don’t know about the allegations that have been made. And so what we have seen historically is people can move district to district.”

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