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CCISD has strict policies regarding inappropriate relationships

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Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 12:00 pm

By Mason W. Canales

Killeen Daily Herald

COPPERAS COVE - The recent arrest of Matthew Thomas Doyle by Copperas Cove Police Department is not the first time CCPD has investigated charges of sexual assault and improper relationships between an educator and a student in the Copperas Cove Independent School district.

Dena Schuetze, a former Copperas Cove teacher, plead guilty to a charge of an improper relationship between an educator and a student in July 2005 in the 52nd District Court in Coryell County.

She received 10 years of deferred adjudication and fines for the charge.

She was originally arraigned on a sexual assault of a child charge and two counts of an improper relationship between an educator and a student in December 2004 after Copperas Cove Police concluded an investigation.

In October 2004, a former Copperas Cove boys basketball coach, Christopher Graham, plead no contest to an improper relationship with a student in the same court. He received five years of deferred probation for his charge.

CCISD spokeswoman Katie Rudesheim wouldn't speak to the 2004 and 2005 convictions, but she said safety and well-being are always a major priority of the school district.

Any allegations such as those brought against Doyle and head girls' basketball coach Preston Flaniken are always taken "very seriously," Rudesheim said, and the district investigates all such allegations.

Doyle was arrested April 4 by Copperas Cove Police on a charge of sexual assault. Also, the school district reported allegations against Flaniken for an improper relationship with a student to police on March 30.

Flaniken, who was placed on administrative leave after the allegations emerged, resigned from the school district Wednesday, which will end his time with the district at the end of the school year, Rudeshiem said.

"Our No. 1 priority always remains the safety of our students," she said. "We have procedures in place to protect all people involved, and we investigate properly and thoroughly."

After receiving allegations, the school district immediately removes that educator or staff member from interacting with the student population by placing them on administrative leave, she said. The district then starts its own investigation, and reports the allegations to the police and the State Board for Educator Certification run by the Texas Education Agency.

Both organizations will start their own investigations into the allegations and incidents.

The TEA will wait to conduct its investigation if there is already a criminal investigations underway, TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said. The organization does take its own witness statements and review the findings with the State Board of Educators Certifications, which can revoke a teacher's certificate, preventing that person from teaching in the state again.

The police's investigation can result in an arrest such as it did with Doyle.

Cases across the state

During the 2009-10 school year, the SBEC opened 178 sexual misconduct cases, nine sexual harassment cases, and 141 inappropriate relationships between an educator and a student or minor cases.

Sexual misconduct and inappropriate relationship cases made up about 20 percent of the cases brought forward to the board that year.

As of the second quarter of the 2010-11 school year, there have been 402 cases brought before the State Board of Educator Certificates, more than 56 percent of those cases opened were sexual misconduct, violence, sexual harassment or inappropriate relationship with a student or minor cases, stated information from the board.

"Those are the highest priority," Culberson said about improper relationship cases. "When you have a teacher that has been alleged to endangering a student, those are cases we take very seriously."

Preventive measures

While there is no formal training to teach educators how to avoid improper relationship situations, the district requires that all educators and staff take a sexual harassment training course every year, Rudesheim said.

The district also performs a criminal background check, conducts reference checks and interviews before any employee is hired.

"With the procedures that we have in place we are able to figure out if there was anything in that person's past that would prevent us from hiring them," Rudesheim said.

The reference checks and the interviews allow the district to get some insight into what type of employee that person may be, she said.

While the district stands firmly behind its hiring policy and its policy for handling improper relationships, the hiring policy only lets the district look into someone's past and there is no way of telling what someone may do in the future after they are hired, Rudeshiem said.

"We do all we can to determine the bad eggs and the good eggs," she said.

Contact Mason W. Canales at mcanales@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7554.

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