Vashon Island School District (VISD) is currently investigating an allegation of misconduct by a high school teacher in the district and has also contacted law enforcement about the matter.
The teacher was placed on administrative leave immediately after the allegation was made, said VISD’s superintendent, Slade McSheehy, in a community email sent on Sept. 2.
In the email, McSheehy said VISD could not share further details at this time, due to an ongoing investigation, but wanted islanders to know “that school leaders are taking this personnel matter extremely seriously.”
According to Zoe Birkbeck, information officer for King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), VISD contacted KCSO on Sept. 1, regarding a suspected sexual relationship between a teacher and a former student.
Subsequent to Birkbeck’s statement, The Beachcomber submitted a public records request for more information about the case and received a response saying that KCSO could not release any records at this time, as it involved an open and active ongoing criminal investigation and the release of any information could hinder or damage the investigation.
Additionally, the denial response cited Washington laws governing “the nondisclosure of specific intelligence information and specific investigative records compiled by investigative, law enforcement, and penology agencies, and state agencies vested with the responsibility to discipline members of any profession” as being essential to effective law enforcement or for the protection of any person’s right to privacy.
Responding to a question from The Beachcomber, McSheehy generally detailed the district’s investigative process, which he referenced as pertaining to VISD’s policy 5253, which outlines the district’s role in protecting children from inappropriate conduct by adults.
VISD has a yearly membership with the Washington Schools Risk Management Pool (WSRMP), which it notifies of any allegations such as this, he said. He further explained that WSRMP’s protocol, after receiving such notifications, is to assign counsel to the district from the law firm, Patterson Buchanan Forbes & Leitch.
After reviewing this specific complaint, the law firm assigned an independent investigator from the firm of Karr Tuttle Campbell to conduct the investigation, McSheehy said, adding that he could not estimate how long the district’s investigation might take, given that it is still in the very early stages.
In his email to district families, McSheehy said VISD’s highest priorities throughout the process will be “ensuring the safety of our students and providing all students with a safe and supportive learning environment.”
School counselors are available to speak with students who may have concerns, he said.
He also said VISD’s next step is “to let the investigation unfold and encourage others to resist the urge to speculate or reach any conclusion before the investigation is complete.”