ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — New developments have surfaced in the Rocky River School District as an investigation continues regarding alleged inappropriate conduct involving several high school teachers.
Superintendent Michael Shoaf issued a lengthy statement Wednesday to announce five teachers have submitted their resignations and another has submitted his retirement.
“Upon learning of the incident involving high school staff members inappropriately discussing a student, we acted swiftly to protect the safety and well-being of students and immediately removed these staff members from the building using proper procedures,” Shoaf says in his statement.
Shoaf says during their investigation they learned of and obtained photographs of a fully clothed student on a teacher's phone. Shoaf says the photos, which were taken in a classroom, “were inappropriate enough” to cause concern because they violated board policy.
“Because of the thoroughness of the investigation, we learned that along with the three staff members, two additional high school teachers were involved in an inappropriate text chain regarding staff members,” Shoaf’s statement continues. “The text chain between these five individuals, which was private, did not contain photographs of students. Those staff members were immediately removed from campus. Subsequently, of these five teachers, four have resigned their employment and one has retired."
Due to the publicity surrounding the situation, Shoaf says a former student also contacted the Rocky River City School District "to express concern over another member of the high school staff regarding alleged inappropriate communication and contact," which happened in the past.
"This sixth staff member was immediately removed from the building and has since resigned his employment," Shoaf says.
Last week, the Rocky River Police Department said they were re-launching their investigation after being made aware that undisclosed information may exist that indicates evidence of criminal activity. Reopening of the investigation happened just days after the department previously determined there was insufficient evidence of criminal activity to file any charges.
The investigation surrounds video of some Rocky River High School teachers “having a conversation including inappropriate comments about a student and referring to possible photos of a student in a text message thread with several other teachers,” police said.
Here is the full statement released Wednesday morning from Superintendent Michael G. Shoaf:
As we have navigated the recent weeks, we have continually stressed the importance of providing a safe, healthy, and productive learning environment for our students. Throughout this difficult time, we have been focused on keeping students safe while gathering the necessary facts needed to ensure that our response was swift, focused, and accurate.
At this time, the district is announcing that five teachers have submitted their resignations and one teacher has submitted his retirement.
Upon learning of the incident involving high school staff members inappropriately discussing a student, we acted swiftly to protect the safety and well-being of students and immediately removed these staff members from the building using proper procedures. An investigation was launched, legal counsel was involved and the Rocky River Police Department (RRPD) was notified.
During the course of our investigation of the information contained in the video relating to three high school teachers, we learned of and obtained photographs of a fully-clothed student on the phone of one of the teachers. The photos, taken in a classroom, were inappropriate enough to warrant concern because they violated Board Policy. Law enforcement and the courts have been made aware of the circumstances and the pictures.
The investigation followed all applicable legal channels and protocols. Because of the thoroughness of the investigation, we learned that along with the three staff members, two additional high school teachers were involved in an inappropriate text chain regarding staff members. The text chain between these five individuals, which was private, did not contain photographs of students. Those staff members were immediately removed from campus. Subsequently, of these five teachers, four have resigned their employment and one has retired.
Due to the publicity associated with the investigation, a former student contacted the Rocky River City School District to express concern over another member of the high school staff regarding alleged inappropriate communication and contact which occurred in the past. This sixth staff member was immediately removed from the building and has since resigned his employment.
In lieu of a lengthy employment termination process, the departure of these six staff members provides our school district with the swiftest route -- without litigation -- to provide 100-percent certainty that these individuals will not return to a Rocky River City School District classroom.
Results from the district’s investigation will be shared with the Ohio Department of Education Office of Professional Conduct who will utilize their authority to determine any further consequences – including review of licensure – through their own independent investigation. The district will also continue to cooperate with the RRPD as they continue their criminal investigation.
Let us be clear. The Rocky River City School District holds our staff to the highest professional and ethical standards and anything less than this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. If the safety of a student is in question, it is the professional and ethical obligation of our staff members to report that situation to the proper individuals. This expectation has been made clear to our staff members on many occasions as well as during mandatory annual trainings. Any conduct to the contrary does not reflect the culture of the dedicated educators and staff of the Rocky River City School District.
Moving forward, we continue to be committed to creating a safe environment for all students that closely adheres to the values and priorities of the Rocky River community. As a district, it is our intention to use this matter as an opportunity to reinforce the high professional and ethical behavioral expectations we have for our staff. Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Anderson will lead a healing initiative which will ensure student safety and reinforce staff training. The Rocky River High School counseling team, the McKeon Education Group and the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio will all be involved in this initiative.
I want to thank the community for its patience during our investigative process and once again assure you that the safety and well-being of all students throughout the district will continue to be our number one priority.
Michael G. Shoaf