Iowa school district facing lawsuit over secrecy about school counselor’s resignation after inappropriate student contact
An Iowa school district is facing a lawsuit after failing to disclose information to the public regarding the “voluntary resignation” of a school counselor accused of inappropriate contact with a…
An Iowa school district is facing a lawsuit after failing to disclose information to the public regarding the “voluntary resignation” of a school counselor accused of inappropriate contact with a female student.
Centerville High School placed guidance counselor and baseball coach Ryan Hodges on paid leave in December after a complaint by a minor female student alleged a number of inappropriate interactions.
The Centerville Community School Board then suddenly approved Hodges’ “voluntary resignation” agreement on Feb. 13 in a controversial, closed-door meeting.
The secret nature of the meeting led to criticism from the public and, finally, a lawsuit filed by Randy Evans, director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. The suit alleges the closed meeting was illegal.
Evans contends the school continually refused to disclose to Centerville citizens the nature of Hodges’ actions or whether the allegations were substantiated.
School officials insist the resignation was voluntary, a distinction they argue exempts them from an Iowa public records law regarding termination of public employees. The officials further claim they have no responsibility whatsoever to disclose the information to taxpayers in their district.
“Our interest in the Centerville case is not motivated by some prurient interest in the details of what he is accused of engaging in with more than just one female student,” Evans wrote in an op-ed for the Des Moines Register. “Our concerns come from a belief that residents of the Centerville district, the people who pay the taxes and sent their kids and grandkids to the schools there, deserve to know what went on at Centerville High School.”
The mother of the student who brought the complaint is also criticizing the district, saying officials accepted the “voluntary resignation” to intentionally keep citizens in the dark.
“By accepting a ‘voluntary resignation’ they have removed themselves from their responsibilities to inform the public, allowing Mr. Hodges to continue his predatory behavior and allowing the district to sweep everything under the rug, all the while, leaving my child to take the fall,” the mother told the Ottumwa Courier. “The community deserves better. And I demand it.”
The complainant’s mother also said her daughter has faced relentless bullying as a result of the lack of transparency.
Evans also stressed that the lack of public information regarding Hodges’ predatory behavior could lead to the former Centerville counselor continuing the behavior in other districts:
“Potential future employers deserve to know what baggage Hodges might bring to a new school district after being accused of violating parental trust — and possibly Iowa law, too.”