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Seaman School District addresses recent article by the Topeka Capital-Journal

PRESS RELEASE                  

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Candace LeDuc, 785-575-8600

Seaman School District addresses recent article by the Topeka Capital-Journal

On February 13, 2018, the Topeka Capital-Journal published an article with claims regarding the handling of online harassment by Seaman High School students. School leaders have been working through these allegations for several months with affected students, parents, and law enforcement while protecting the privacy rights of the students who came to the administration with concerns.

Seaman Schools’ first priority is always to provide a safe and conducive learning environment for all students. While the district has the authority to monitor the use of technology at school, we do not have the authority to monitor technology at home or outside of school. The district has been visiting with legal counsel to ensure board policy and Title IX requirements are being followed as we work towards finding a resolution. The district works in partnership with our students, families, and the sheriff’s office anytime these types of allegations are brought forth.

We understand the difficulty for parents and students to report this type of inappropriate behavior. Recently, we had a parent come forward with valuable information and insight on this issue via email. This email with private and sensitive information was unfortunately forwarded to the Topeka Capital-Journal by a USD 345 board member. When asked, the Topeka Capital-Journal denied our request to reveal the board member who made public the confidential parent email.

The following is a statement from the parent who reached out to us after being affected by this breach of privacy.

“My daughter and I made the difficult decision to come forward with information in order to help law enforcement with this investigation after a meeting with the Seaman High School counseling staff and administration. Mr. Monaghan, Ms. Flores and Mr. Alexander were gracious and respectful in the way they handled our difficult and upsetting circumstances. At no time did Seaman leaders make us feel like we did something wrong; instead, they were very encouraging and helpful. After coming forward, I sent an email to Superintendent Dr. Noble and a few board members to help them understand the difficulty parents and kids face in coming forward. Imagine my shock when Angela Deines from the Topeka Capital-Journal contacted me for her article. Ms. Deines informed me that a board member had provided my email to her. My email that I sent in confidence to the leaders of our district, with my daughter's name attached to an investigation regarding nude photos, was sent to the paper without my knowledge or consent from a member of the school board who is expected to handle student complaints confidentially. By turning over that private email, this board member is discouraging people from coming forward by not respecting our privacy when we do come forward. We did not want to be included in this media circus, we wanted to help solve a case and do the right thing.  The Topeka Capital-Journal denied my request to not be quoted in the article from my personal email. With the way the Topeka Capital-Journal and a certain board member are exploiting this issue it may seem the only way to protect our kids is to keep quiet. My disappointment with Seaman leaders begins and ends with one person, and that is the board member who forwarded my email to the paper. Dr. Noble and Mr. Monaghan have been compassionate and considerate and I would encourage any parent or student to reach out to them with concerns or evidence, knowing you will not be shamed, you will be respected.”

The USD 345 Seaman School President also addressed this breach of privacy.

“As board president, I am frustrated and disappointed with the lack of consideration and invasion of privacy one of our board members has caused for this family,” said Fred Patton. “That’s not the Seaman way. But, we cannot let the action of one board member hamper our ability as a board and as parents to foster an environment where our children can feel safe speaking up for themselves and each other. The Board and administration of Seaman Schools stand in full support of the privacy rights of our students and their families. I pledge to work with this family to address this breach of trust and to continue our work addressing the underlying allegations.”

Another Seaman parent, who was cited by the Topeka Capital-Journal as being frustrated that “nobody at the school was taking her daughter seriously,” reached out to us after the article was published and provided the following statement. “I feel as though a statement I made to the media has been misconstrued. At no time did I feel as though the administration at the high school treated myself or my daughter with anything but respect. All I want is for the victims in this situation to feel supported and safe. Every time I spoke with administration I was treated with respect and empathy.”

The district follows board policy requiring school administrators to investigate any complaints regarding student behaviors that may be threatening, harassing or bullying towards others. The district also follows policy in which we do not comment on student issues, including student investigations in order to protect the privacy of our students. Seaman Schools will continue to address negative online behaviors in our schools appropriately, and with confidentiality.

Throughout this investigation, we have seen how online harassment, bullying, threats, intimidation, extortion and the soliciting and sharing of inappropriate photos are concerns in teen culture. This needs to be better understood and addressed by the adults closely involved in kids’ lives. We believe most, if not all, of this behavior occurs outside of school and on non-school issued personal electronic devices; yet, it is still our responsibility as a school district to do what we can to help our kids be safe and respectful with one another. We continue to incorporate digital citizenship curricula and programs in our schools along with more conversations with students, families, and community members around this topic.

For the safety of all our students, we continue to encourage students and parents to report any behavior that is in violation of our school policy.