I9 SPECIAL REPORT: Hidden abuse
A student who claims a Linn-Mar teacher sexually assaulted her says she is struggling to get answers. That teacher was placed on leave and allowed to resign without any explanation to the family or the public.
Marion police say they've investigated the case twice. Once as a sexual assault, most recently as a simple assault. In the end, police say there simply wasn't enough evidence for the incidents that happened two years ago. But what is frustrating the family most is what they see as a lack of action.
In a recording at the Child Protection Center in Hiawatha, a then 15-year-old girl explained her alleged sexual assault to a forensic interviewer.
"There were about two incidents with my breasts and once incident with my vagina," said the girl.
The girl says the abuse happened repeatedly from 2014 to 2016 in the Linn-Mar School district during school hours at the hands of her teacher. She was a student at Excelsior Middle School at the time. We made several attempts to contact the teacher to get their side of the story but we haven't heard back.
"He said he’d fail me if I told anybody about it," the girl said.
"There is just too much that doesn’t add up," said Ian Gerard, the girl’s father.
Gerard tells I9 his family brought their allegations to a counselor at Linn-Mar High School in early October. The teacher was subsequently placed on paid administrative leave on October 18th where he has remained ever since.
Marion police tell I9 there is no evidence the girl is lying. Their own investigation uncovered a letter Gerard’s daughter wrote with another, unnamed Excelsior student. The letter describes the teacher’s behavior as “perverted” and “pedophilic,” adding, “We have thought very much about this issue before it was addressed with an administrator.”
The letter does not mention sexual assault but the girl says she reported the sexual abuse to an associate principal at Excelsior in 2016.
"He (the school administrator) pulled out a legal pad and he was writing notes and stuff and he said there was going to be an investigation," said the girl. "I asked him about two or three weeks later like where our case was in the investigation, who it was going to, who was handing it and he said he couldn’t say anything due to legal reasons."
I9 could not find any records of her complaints in the girl’s student records.
"I would have at least expected someone to call me on the phone and say, "hey we have a situation, your daughter has made a report." Nobody did that," said Gerard. "They’ve told me virtually nothing."
There is also a paper trail of Gerard’s daughter’s medical files to consider. Around the same time she was allegedly being touched by her teacher, she started being hospitalized for depression and suicidal thoughts. It happened repeatedly from 2015 through 2017 and records show it took her years of treatment before she ultimately told medical professionals she was sexually assaulted.
"We had (her) hospitalized on several different occasions because of this," said Gerard. "Her behavior and her demeanor overall was understandable given what she went through but at that point we still didn’t know."
The district says it conducted an investigation of its own but refuses to release any of those findings. I9 did obtain the separation agreement allowing the teacher to resign in lieu of termination. It let him stay on leave and keep getting paychecks through June. But the district has refused to tell us or the Gerard family why they sought to end the teacher’s employment.
I9 invited Superintendent Quintin Shepard and every member of the Linn-Mar school board to take part in an interview for this story. The only response we received was from the district’s attorney, who told us Superintendent Shepherd would be declining that offer adding,“The School District is subject to federal and state laws regarding confidentiality of student and personnel information.”
However, the head of Iowa’s Public Information Board says that is not entirely true. We asked executive Director Margaret Johnson about the district’s refusal to explain the teacher’s resignation. She tells us the law states if a public employee “resigns in lieu of termination, then the government body needs to release the "documented reasons and rationale" for the termination.” We sent that to the district but they have not responded.