An Anchorage attorney has signed on to help the Juneau School District investigate an incident in which incoming high school freshmen were allegedly abducted and beaten with a wooden paddle by upperclassmen.
At his first JSD Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Superintendent Mark Miller made the announcement that the district will be moving forward with the help of Anchorage’s John Sedor. The district has been investigating the case independently of the Juneau Police Department since June, Miller said after the meeting.
Sedor, “who is an expert in investigating these types of issues ... is going to be talking to students and staff and working with me ... to determine what the next steps will be,” Miller said at the meeting.
He said after the meeting that the board and school staff contacted him about the incident before he moved to Juneau, and it was his decision to hire an outside investigator.
Sedor was chosen because he has worked with the district in the past on legal issues and investigations, and Miller wanted an investigator “who was from outside, who didn’t have a connection to anybody who could be involved.” According to Sedor’s website, he specializes in education law and works with one-third of the state’s school districts on legal matters.
Sedor has already been talking to “adults with direct knowledge” of the incident, Miller said. He’ll soon start interviewing students. Miller said there are district policies “that require students to tell us what they know.”
“We can’t rely on what we read in the news as what we take action on,” he said. “We have to verify all of those facts.”
Although the police department has dropped its investigation of the hazing incident without any arrests or criminal charges, the district will continue its investigation, Miller said. Unlike JPD, “we’re not looking at violations of the penal code,” he said. The district is looking into violations of state statutes and board policy.
Miller couldn’t say what the district’s response will be once the investigation is complete. Consequences for students can’t be determined until the district finds out what happened, he said.
Before its public meeting, the school board held an executive session to discuss a self-assessment of the board. Board President Sally Saddler said after the meeting that the discussion was held in executive session because part of the assessment concerned the board-superintendent relationship, which she called a personnel matter.
The board is supposed to assess itself each year but didn’t last year because it ran out of time, she said.
Saddler announced at the meeting that she will not run for re-election, although her second three-year term is coming to a close. After the meeting, she said she’s not running for a variety of reasons, mostly because she has a lot on her plate and needs to streamline her obligations.
Board vice president Sean O’Brien announced he will be running for re-election and had just filed the paperwork earlier that day.
O’Brien said he stopped by the district’s administrative offices recently and said the school year is off to a great start. The district brought on several new top administrators over the summer.
“(The district offices) had such a great feel, a real positive, team feel to it,” O’Brien said. “You got some great staff, as you know,” he said to Miller.
Miller said he’s excited for his first year on the job. School starts Aug. 20.
“I’m pretty pumped and looking forward to getting this school year started,” he said.
The board’s next meetings are Sept. 9 in the Thunder Mountain High School library, starting with a work session on Montessori Borealis’ expansion proposal at 4:45 p.m., followed by a regular board meeting at 6 p.m.