Centralia teacher remains on paid leave after allegations of misconduct

The Centralia High School teacher accused of having sexual contact with a student on two occasions last school year is still on paid administrative leave, and the district has yet to complete its investigation.

Centralia School District Superintendent Mark Davalos did not make himself available for comment on Wednesday. Ed Petersen, public relations and communications coordinator for the district, sent an email to The Chronicle with a quote from the district’s attorney, Lance Andree.

“We always try to be prompt in any investigation,” the quote from Andree reads. “(I)n practice/reality these investigations sometimes take longer for reasons beyond our control, such as the need to coordinate/respect ongoing police investigations, new evidence coming in during the investigation that causes a need to conduct additional interviews, and the workload of outside investigators on whom we rely for investigations involving serious allegations of misconduct. It’s more important to get it right than to do it fast.”

The Chronicle obtained incident reports from both the Centralia Police Department and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office that said there were two alleged incidents of sexual misconduct in the 2017-18 school year. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer declined to file charges in a letter dated Oct. 5, after the alleged victim refused to cooperate. However, Meyer noted that he believed unlawful contact took place.

“... I have reviewed the reports submitted in this matter,” wrote Meyer in the decline letter obtained by The Chronicle. “I have also reviewed the letter submitted by a private investigator retained by the suspect’s attorney. Both submissions clearly indicate there was sexual contact.”

Meanwhile, the Centralia School District has been conducting its own investigation.

The Centralia School District received the report on Sept. 10, according to records from the Centralia Police Department, but the district — after more than two months — has yet to complete its investigation.

According to district policy, the Title IX coordinator or designated investigator must compile a “full written report of the complaint and the results of the investigation” after the investigation is complete.

That investigation is supposed to be complete in 30 days.

“The superintendent or designee will respond in writing to the complainant and the alleged perpetrator within thirty (30) calendar days of receipt of the complaint, unless otherwise agreed to by the complainant or if exceptional circumstances related to the complaint require an extension of the time limit,” the policy (No. 3205) reads.

According to the district’s own policy, it must notify the person who submitted the complaint in writing of the reason for an extension.

Davalos previously told The Chronicle that investigations into sexual misconduct could last weeks, or months.

“We don’t try to drag things out,” Davalos previously told The Chronicle. “If the person should get back in the classroom, we want to do that as fast as we can.”

The Chronicle filed a records request with the Centralia School District for “any communication regarding (the suspect), or any reports of impropriety or complaints against a teacher” on Sept. 24. The district fulfilled the request on Oct. 31.

None of the records indicate that the district notified the complainant of a reason it would extend the timeline.

According to the records The Chronicle obtained from the district, the most recent communication between the district and the suspect was a letter from Davalos dated Sept. 19.

The letter reads in part, “In summary of our phone call yesterday, you are directed to attend a meeting with an outside investigator, Alan Key, on Friday, September 21st at 9:00 am at Centralia District Office. The purpose of the meeting is to conduct an investigatory meeting to investigate allegations of potential boundary invasion and/or sexual misconduct. These allegations involve potential boundary invasions with a former student for which the District is obligated to investigate.”

Records from the district indicate that Key is an investigator at Clear Risk Solutions. According to the company’s website it specializes in insurance program administration and risk management services.

One of the documents the district claimed was exempt from The Chronicle’s records request was a draft of the investigative report, dated Sept. 24.

In response to a records request from The Chronicle for “any and all records related to the termination or discipline of (the teacher)” on Nov. 5, Petersen responded two days later that those records do not exist.

“At this time, (the teacher) does not have any disciplinary records on file, therefore there are no records relevant to your request,” wrote Petersen on Nov. 7. “Our investigation is still ongoing and (the teacher) remains on administrative leave, per records previously disclosed.”