St. Joseph School District unsure whether Lanning disallowed from board volunteer requirement she’s proposing after harassment charges

St. Joseph, Missouri school board member Whitney Lanning is pushing for board members to be required to volunteer at least four hours each month in schools if they want to participate in board…

St. Joseph, Missouri school board member Whitney Lanning is pushing for board members to be required to volunteer at least four hours each month in schools if they want to participate in board meeting discussions.

However, the criminal harassment charges filed against her after an incident caught on tape against a fellow board member in February may make Lanning ineligible to volunteer based on the school district’s own safety protocols.

According to a police report filed March 5, Lanning screamed profanities at and threatened to assault fellow board member Isaura Garcia as Lanning chased her around “multiple rooms” following a February 26 board meeting.

Surveillance video, married with audio that appears to be from a separate source but authentic, reveals the explosive, profane tirade of Lanning against Garcia.

“What did you want to f*****g say? Turn your f*****g a** around! You have something to f*****g say about my kid? 

“I f*****g swear to God … I will f**k you up! 

“You think you get to say whatever the f**k you want? Not about somebody’s f*****g kids you don’t, you sack of s**t!” 

Lanning is currently charged with second-degree harassment, the most serious type of misdemeanor in Missouri and punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and a year in jail, leading to calls for her resignation. 

Instead, Lanning is pressing on with a list of proposals she’d like the St. Joseph School Board to consider, including “a policy that requires each board member to volunteer four hours per month in schools in order to participate in discussion during the following month’s regularly scheduled meeting.” 

But Lanning’s harassment charge could make her ineligible to volunteer in schools. 

Applicants to volunteer in the St. Joseph School District (SJSD) are required to disclose any criminal convictions – besides minor traffic violations – and pending criminal charges. 

The volunteer handbook explains that Level 2 volunteers, who may be left alone with a student, must undergo a criminal background check and “notify the district if they are charged, convicted, plead guilty to or are otherwise found guilty of any misdemeanor or felony, regardless of the imposition of sentence.” 

Level 1 volunteers do not undergo a full background check, but, per the volunteer application, are still asked prior or current criminal charges. 

Missouri law also requires school districts to screen volunteers for student safety

Heather Adams, a human resource manager at SJSD, explained the district’s screening policy to The Lion, but implied that misdemeanor harassment wouldn’t normally exclude a volunteer. 

“The District looks at the age of the offense; the type of offense, meaning what crime was committed and whether it is a misdemeanor or felony; the circumstances of the offense if that information is available; whether the crime involves children; and any other pertinent information based on the offense and the position sought with the District,” she said.  

Adams specifically addressed the question of harassment, saying:  

“A felony conviction of harassment would likely prevent someone from being employed or volunteering in the District. A misdemeanor conviction of harassment, depending on the circumstances, would likely not result in a denial of an employment or volunteer application.”  

Both first-degree (felony) and second-degree (misdemeanor) harassment are defined as a person “without good cause, engag[ing] in any act with the purpose to cause emotional distress to another person.” 

The definition of first-degree harassment also includes that “such act does cause such person to suffer emotional distress.” 

Any subsequent harassment charge is automatically categorized as first-degree.  

Besides her harassment charge, Lanning is also in hot water for potentially violating conflict of interest policies and being delinquent on her property taxes. 

And the SJSD superintendent, Gabe Edgar, is facing questions about illegal electioneering after he admitted to the district was coordinating with a political action committee working to get a bond issue passed by the voters.