Creslane Elementary School (CES) staff and parents are upset by a report independently discovered in recent weeks regarding a third grade teacher misusing district equipment to store and view sexually explicit materials back in 2016, and are especially concerned because the teacher is still a district employee.
Parents and staff allege that Creswell School District (CSD) did not handle this matter properly, saying that administration did not inform parents nor staff of this investigation or its findings, and hasn't responded to inquiries on the matter. They said this is not the first time parents and staff felt information has been withheld from them from district administration.
The parents and staff interviewed will remain anonymous in this report. They are confirmed parents or staff members of CES. The parents interviewed have had children in the classroom of the teacher in question. The staff interviewed works directly with the person in question and also has children at CES.
For fear of scrutiny or reprimand, the sources requested anonymity.
The use of anonymous sources requires careful examination and are only used in rare circumstances. The sources must be proven reliable and in a position to have access to the information; must bring to light important facts that otherwise would remain in the shadows; the information must be an essential part of the news report; and is only available under conditions of anonymity.
The Chronicle vetted the sources and they were confirmed reliable, and consulted with Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association Attorney Jack Orchard regarding the ethical implementation of anonymous sources, who confirmed this article warranted anonymity.
These sources contacted The Chronicle on this matter because it is, ”An important conversation that needs to happen so parents can have awareness of how things are being handled” at CSD, one parent stated. ”I would not feel the need to share this information if I felt the school district was handling these matters well.”
THE TSPC REPORT
On Nov. 29, 2016, the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission of Oregon (TSPC) received a report from CSD alleging professional misconduct of licensed educator, Brian ”Bill” Kelly Freid.
Freid, 50, served as a classroom teacher from September 2006 to August 2018. At the time of the incident, Freid was employed as a third grade teacher at CES.
The report, available at http://bit.ly/TSPCBrianFreid, alleged that ”Freid committed an act of gross neglect of duty and/or gross unfitness by misusing school district computer equipment to store and view sexually explicit materials.”
Subsequent investigation determined that on Oct. 26, 2016, Freid submitted his district-issued laptop computer to the district's technology department for repairs.
On Nov. 2, 2016, the information technology department reported to the the school's administration that they had located inappropriate files on Freid's computer.
Freid admitted to transferring the files to the laptop on Sept. 2, 2016.
In a meeting following, on an unspecified date, Freid admitted to using another district computer central processing unit and a district video camera to view and store similar inappropriate materials. Freid had deleted the files, and while the files were no longer easily accessible, they unknowingly still remained on the hard drive, the report states.
Examination of the images determined the material was not criminal or of a deviant nature, the report states.
The Stipulation of Facts states that Freid used the district's equipment at home, with his own internet access, and none of the materials were viewed at school.
CSD Superintendent Todd Hamilton said that Freid was on unpaid leave from Nov. 3 to 8, 2016, though the report states that the district issued Freid a letter of reprimand and four days unpaid leave on Nov. 8, 2016.
That's because, ”Once the district issued a letter of reprimand and four days unpaid leave, Mr. Freid opted to convert the paid leave to unpaid status,” Hamilton said.
The report concluded that ”Fried's conduct constituted gross neglect in violation of Oregon revised statutes pertaining to the unauthorized use of school electronic equipment to receive, store, produce or send sexually explicit materials; use of professional judgement; using and maintaining district property, equipment and materials appropriately; and using district lawful and reasonable laws and regulations.”
The report ordered that a public reprimand be imposed on Freid's educator license.
TSPC Deputy Director Trent J. Danowski said a public reprimand, ”is given when the commission finds the educator has violated commission standards for professional conduct, but is not so serious as to rise to the level of suspending the educator's right to practice education for any period of time.”
A reprimand is a public sanction and is reported to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Clearinghouse, similar to suspensions and revocations, Danowski said.
The Chronicle reached out to Freid for comment on Sept. 28 and Oct. 1. No communications were returned.
Freid served as a CES classroom teacher until August 2018, Hamilton said.
STILL EMPLOYED, STAFF & PARENTS UPSET
In September 2018, Freid was again employed at CES, but now as an educational assistant. According to the job posting issued by the school district, the responsibilities include, ”Assisting teachers in meeting needs of students in a one-on-one or small group environment.”
Parents and staff say they are uncomfortable working with, or having their children around Freid and have gone as far as to request their children be placed on a list that prevents them from working with Freid.
”As an educational assistant he (Freid) has access to students one-on-one as well as small groups, in my opinion his judgment should not be trusted,” a parent said.
On Sept. 27 and again on Oct. 1, The Chronicle asked Superintendent Hamilton and CES Principal Ryan Beck about this list of students not permitted to work with Freid, but no communications were returned.
A staff member said, ”We shouldn't have someone working at school that parents are uncomfortable having their kids around. If parents cannot have their kids in certain classes, how does that benefit the child? It's holding them back.”
They say having Freid still employed at the district has created an uncomfortable working environment and and uneasy environment to send their children into.
On Sept. 27 and again on Oct. 1, The Chronicle asked Superintendent Hamilton about the call to keep Freid on staff after the investigation, despite the apparent discomfort felt by parents and staff. No communications were returned back.
”You shouldn't have to worry about the classes your kids are in,” a staff member said. ”You should feel comfortable with every single staff member, and if parents and staff doesn't feel comfortable with someone (in the district), why are they still there? What are they protecting?”
Hamilton said that Freid was chosen for the assistant position because, ”He was the most qualified candidate for the educational assistant position.”
He said the hiring committee members were aware of the TSPC reprimand.
On Sept. 27 and again on Oct. 1, The Chronicle asked Hamilton and Beck whether there were other candidates for the education assistant position and what specifically made Freid ”the most qualified” for the position. No communications were returned about these questions.
Hamilton maintains that the issue did not occur at school no students were involved, the issue was not criminal in nature and TSPC did not suspend Freid's license.
Hamilton said, ”We (CSD) always seek to hire the most qualified applicants available, and that we are constantly monitoring the school setting to ensure that that our students are experiencing a safe and healthy learning environment.”
DISCOVERING THE REPORT, SEEING A TREND
When the TSPC report surfaced online among parents and staff in recent months, they were dismayed that the school district did not make this information publicly known.
”In this case, the District did not initiate any communications with parents or staff,” Hamilton said.
A staff member said, ”This information (about Freid) was withheld from staff members, when there should have been something sent out. As a taxpayer, I paid for the technology he (Freid) used and I want to know why my tax money is paying for this guy to be watching porn.”
Hamilton said that the district did not initiate any communications with parents or staff because there was no obligation to do so.
A parent said, ”As a parent, I am concerned that this matter was withheld from parents and that (Freid) continues to work with our children. How could he (Freid) continue to be employed at the school despite his obvious poor judgement and inappropriate behavior?”
On Sept. 27 and again on Oct. 1, The Chronicle asked Beck and Hamilton about the call to keep Freid on staff after his report of misconduct was complete, but did not respond.
A parent relented that withholding information from parents is a trend at CSD, stating that ”this is not the first time (an incident was) covered up by the superintendent.”
The parent listed recent instances at the school district they believe were not handled properly by the administration, including the texting scandal between principals in 2017 and the lawsuit filed this year after a disabled child was allegedly sexually assaulted in a Creslane classroom by a nurses aid.
The principal incident occurred January 2017 when Principal Andy Bracco and Vice Principal Jordan Osborn resigned after a text message exchange mocked two former female students. The texts were documented by a student sitting behind the administrators at a sporting event.
A parent said, ”Until parents started emailing, calling and writing letters, nothing was done.”
A civil lawsuit was filed on Feb. 14, 2018 against CSD and a licensed practical nurse, James Warren, who worked at the district from Feb. 16 through June 12, 2016. Warren allegedly sexually assaulted a disabled child multiple times inside the Life Skills classroom, and the plaintiff alleges CSD did not investigate Warren or take the appropriate action when they were told about his suspicious behavior.
Trial is set for May 14, 2019.
”Parents were never informed (of the Warren incident) by the school; it came out in the news,” the parent said. ”What if there had been more? The school should have gotten this information out, so parents could know to have those conversations with their children.”
A parent said, ”I expect teachers and other administrators to be held to the highest of standards. I hold myself to that as a parent and would like to school district to be doing the same. We are trusting them with our most important part of our lives.”
Is the district required to disclose information such as this to the public?
”To the best of our knowledge, there was nothing related to this matter that obligated the district to notify staff or families.” Hamilton said the district generally does not discuss personnel matters.
Creswell School Board (CSB) Chair Tim Rogers declined to respond to any questions regarding Freid and referred all inquiries to Hamilton, ”as most of them concern a personnel matter that is not addressed at the board level.” Hamilton said the complaint was not appealed to CSB.
”The district responded to staff and the public to the extent that was legally permissible,” Hamilton said.
The Chronicle asked Hamilton to clarify what specifically was legally permissible to discuss before, during and after the investigation, but did not respond, except to state their general obligations to comply with Oregon Public Records Law and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act when responding to requests for information regarding employees and/or students.
Hamilton said that when parents inquired, they were directed to Principal Beck.
”We had one parent contact the district office in August 2018 - the parent called twice,” Hamilton said. ”During the second call, the parent was informed that the principal would follow up. The principal returned the parent's call on the same day.” However, the two were unable to connect for a few days - exchanging several phone messages before connecting, Hamilton said. The principal confirmed information in the TSPC stipulation of facts and final order of reprimand.
Hamilton said that staff who approached the principal, heard generally the same information, and that Freid shared information with staff who inquired directly with him.
On Sept. 27 and again on Oct. 1, The Chronicle asked Beck how he responded to such inquiries from staff and parents. No communications were returned.
When asked if any complaints have been documented relating to Freid, Rogers said, ”At present, I am unaware of any active complaint before the board in accordance with board policy KL-AR, Public Complaint Procedure.”
On Sept. 27 and again on Oct. 1, The Chronicle asked Beck and Hamilton if there are other complaints on file regarding Freid, but they did not respond.
When asked if the TSPC sets parameters or guidelines for how districts should be presented to the public, Danowski said that, ”TSPC has zero jurisdiction over school districts or their policies.”
On Sept. 27 and again on Oct. 1, The Chronicle asked Beck and Hamilton what the district could do to streamline important information to the public and staff, and how the district could better accommodate the public's right to know, but did not respond.
The next school board meeting is set for Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m., located in the Boardroom at the district office, 998 W. A St. The public is encouraged to attend.