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Teacher-student embrace causes controversy

Coach resigns after online photo causes stir

News editor

Concerns leading to a school district investigation of a photo posted to social media showing a male Goessel teacher/coach and a female student embracing may have led Monday to the resignation of Patrick Loganbill.

District officials did not specifically link the resignation to the photo, which Superintendent John Fast said appeared “recently” on social media. He declined to describe the photo, how it was brought to the district’s attention, or identify the teacher/coach in it.

A copy of the photo obtained online with faces blurred shows two people in a tight embrace against a dark background, but no additional context indicated where or when the photo was taken.

Two of about a dozen people attending Monday’s school board meeting spoke out about the photo, the alleged relationship leading up to it, and the subsequent fallout.

Marc Knowles, a parent of two children in the district, spoke first, claiming the district was aware of concerns about the teacher and pupil’s relationship two months ago.

“We can address the elephant in the room, which is Dr. Fast stated in a TV interview that he and the board were made aware of this last week,” Knowles said. “I called Dr. Fast on the evening of Sept. 18 and told him parents are openly discussing the situation in the community and that he needs to get ahead of this.”

Knowles said Fast responded that an internal investigation was being conducted.

“I know of at least seven other individuals and/or organizations that have brought this to adminstration’s attention since May and they have covered it up or ignored it,” Knowles said.

The district’s failure to address the situation was responsible for escalation of controversy, Knowles said,

“Now due to their inactions, there’s a lovely young lady from a nice family that is having to deal with criticism from this community, and administration quite possibly have ruined the career of a teacher that is in my opinion a great coach,” he said. “All of this could have been avoided if we had addressed this months ago and showed that they care enough about the students to mentor a staff member into being a better role model.”

Kristy Turner, another district parent, countered that what goes on in internal investigations is typically invisible to the public.

“From a professional standpoint of having a background in (human resources), I think there are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that to assume things aren’t being looked into is an unfair statement,” she said.

Speech-language pathologist Angie Duerksen said reactions to the photo among people outside of Goessel was strong.

“I do have a concern that this particular teacher was not concerned that this picture was taken and shared,” she said. “These pictures are shared, everybody knows that. People outside this community are frankly appalled by the picture when they find out who’s in it. Nobody in this community seems to be. Whether or not something illegal happened really doesn’t matter; it’s quite unethical.”

Fast said Tuesday that to the best of his knowledge, there is no law enforcement investigation associated with the situation.

While the board met in executive session, Knowles said it was impossible to tell what the nature of the relationship was from the picture.

“We don’t know what the relationship is,” he said. “We don’t have a clue. It could be kind of a big brother or uncle/niece thing, and that’s fine. It could be just a mentorship and that’s great, but it’s happening in school.”

A handbook given to every teacher addresses the issue of teacher/pupil relationships, Fast said.

“While teachers and other staff members should have a sincere interest in students as individuals, any staff-pupil friendship or relationship must be on a teacher-pupil basis,” he read.

“Excessive informal and social involvement with individual students gives rise to charges of partiality and excessive personal involvement.

“Personal relationships which extend beyond the teacher-pupil relationship are not compatible with professional ethics, are potentially damaging to the teacher’s ability to perform basic instructional duties, and could be grounds for termination,” he concluded.

Fast reiterated that the guidance in the teacher handbook is applicable to all staff members. He declined to say whether this policy or any behavior it describes was involved in Loganbill’s resignation.

Fast emphasized that Loganbill resigned and was not terminated, but again declined to give a reason for the resignation.

The situation gives cause for the district to re-evaluate and update its policies and procedures, Fast said, making proactive decisions to try to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The situation is sad, Knowles said, particularly because he has a close relationship with the girl’s family and has positive impressions of the teacher/coach.

“I don’t know what you say out of this,” he said. “This could have been stopped a long time ago, and now it’s at a point where I don’t know what the answer is. It’s sad to me.”

Last modified Nov. 15, 2017

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