Attorney Finds Former Schalm Teacher’s Sexual Harassment Claim Unsubstantial
School board also approves hiring a search firm to help find a new superintendent.
An investigation conducted by a Clawson School District-appointed attorney has concluded that former Schalm teacher Carrie Burnard's sexual harasment allegations against teacher Scott Just were unsubstantial.
Attorney Robert Schindler said at Monday’s school board meeting that he interviewed 19 people in the investigation since last June, including Burnard, Just and Schalm Principal Patti Pell.
"Evidence did not support a finding that would uphold these claims," Schindler said.
Burnard reported that in the 2008-09 school year, Just sexually harassed her and later said the incident was not adequately investigated after she informed Pell.
At a controversial school board meeting on June 13, Burnard said during public comment that the sexual harassment left an emotional impact on her and her family.
"You should be ashamed," Burnard said to the school board in June. "I'm actually embarrassed that I worked there."
School Board President Kevin Turner said the sexual harassment charge was initially investigated by the district and found to be unsubstantiated. Superintendent Cheryl Rogers said Pell did an internal investigation of the incident and resolved the issue between Just and Burnard. The two teachers taught a fourth-grade class together in 2009.
The June 13 meeting prompted the school board to hire Schindler to investigate the allegations and ensure Pell had not violated any school district policies when she addressed Burnard's report.
"He interviewed everyone he was told had information on the case," Turner said. "He did a thorough investigation."
Burnard is now a teacher at Kenwood and Just is still teaching at Schalm, Turner said. In addition to the sexual harassment charge, Just was suspended for three unpaid days in June 2010 for having a digital picture frame in his classroom with nude photos of women. Police and school investigations concluded that the photos on the digital picture frame were "unintentional," Turner said.
Turner said the sexual harassment investigation is now a "closed matter." He said he hopes the district can move past these incidents and "continue to work on building an environment that is positive for all staff members."
Superintendent search to begin
The school board on Monday approved a motion to appoint the Michigan Leadership Institute to aid in its search for a new superintendent. Cheryl Rogers, the current superintendent, will retire in June. Turner said the MLI also assisted the board in 2007 when Rogers was first hired.
"They did an awesome job," Turner said.
Michael Wilmot, a representative from MLI, said the search firm will perform tasks such as visiting schools to speak with teachers about qualities they would like in a superintendent and help the board narrow the search down to four-six candidates for formal interviews.
Turner said the school board will welcome the community to all meetings and interviews for candidates.
"We do value their input and want to hear their thoughts," Turner said.
Turner said the school district will begin the search process as early as next week.