MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY (KFVS) - Multiple school district employees were under investigation after alleged incidents involving students.
On Friday, March 8, the Board of Education held an emergency meeting after Superintendent Brian Harper submitted his resignation, effective on March 9.
The McCracken County Sheriff’s Office said their first investigation began on Thursday, Jan. 17. at the McCracken County High School.
It was reported that the former athletic director allegedly had improper contact with current and former students.
According to the McCracken County Sheriff’s Office in February, it was alleged that the former athletic director sent and/or received naked pictures of students.
According to a detective with the McCracken Co. Sheriff’s Office, as of March 19, there is “no clear evidence” and “nothing illegal” regarding the former McCracken County athletic director.
The case was discussed with the prosecutor and the case was closed.
A second incident was reported to the Sheriff’s Office that a high school teacher allegedly had inappropriate communications with a current and former student. According to the McCracken County Sheriff’s Office, on Feb. 6, detectives started investigating alleged inappropriate communications between a teacher and a student.
On Friday, Feb. 22, McCracken County High School teacher Mark Daniel Edwards, 29, was served a criminal summons. Detectives also served a search warrant and seized evidence as part of the investigation.
During the investigation, detectives say they learned Edwards also had inappropriate communications with another student in June or July 2018. Detectives say they talked to the former student. Edwards allegedly asked the former student to send him a naked photograph. The former student told officers they had not had any recent communications with Edwards, adding their only previous relationship was student/teacher and athlete/coach. The victim said the request for naked photographs was completely unsolicited.
According to the sheriff’s office, the former student was willing and wanted detectives to pursue charges on their behalf.
Detectives consulted with the county attorney’s office and took out a charge against Edwards for harassing communications, a class B misdemeanor.
According to the sheriff’s office, they contacted McCracken County School Superintendent Brian Harper on Friday afternoon to make him aware of the charges against Edwards. Detectives say the school district was holding off on their internal investigation to prevent the criminal investigation from possibly being compromised.
Up until this time, detectives say Edwards remained unnamed because there were no formal charges being taken or able to be taken until now.
McCracken County Sheriff Matt Carter said the investigation is ongoing.
The sheriff said the charges on Edwards were part of the ongoing investigation that started on February 6, 2019, The allegations that led to charges being taken occurred prior to Interim High School Principle Ginger Stewart’s Administration.
“I would like to reiterate that we work almost daily with so many great teachers and staff of the McCracken County School System,” Sheriff Carter said. “This incident, no different from any previous incidents, should in no way reflect negatively upon our system as a whole.”
On Thursday, Feb. 14 the McCracken County Sheriff’s Office says they took a report about allegations against the former McCracken County High School Volunteer Fishing Coach, John Parks, which involved a minor. After an investigation, Parks was arrested and charged with sexual abuse and using electronic device to induce a minor to engage in sexual or prohibited activities. According to the victim and family members, they reported the alleged incident to school leaders and an investigation was conducted, but the McCracken County Sheriff’s Office was not notified. In Kentucky, it is state law for school officials to report any allegations of mistreatment involving a student.
A fourth incident was reported on Sunday, Feb. 17. According to the McCracken County Sheriff’s Office, a former student allegedly had sexual contact with a current minor high school student. Prince Kumar Joshi, 18, was arrested on Tuesday, Feb. 19. He was charged with using an electronic device to record and possess illegal sexual images of a minor.
He allegedly drove an underage female classmate to his home and forced her to perform a sexual act. He also allegedly took two Snapchat videos of the act. According to the arrest warrant, the victim was juvenile and did not consent to the sexual act.
Joshi was interviewed on Feb. 18 and according to the arrest warrant, he admitted to taking two videos with his cell phone, but said he had since deleted them.
According to the arrest warrant, Joshi was also interviewed by school staff on Feb. 15 and admitted to the above incident and provided a written statement.
During the investigation, detectives interviewed faculty members who reportedly said they were told about the case a few days earlier. Detectives say that members of the school faculty and staff allegedly conducted an internal investigation into the case without reporting them to law enforcement.
The McCracken County Sheriff’s Office held a joint press conference on Wednesday, February 20 to address multiple complaints and investigations on criminal allegations involving both McCracken County School Officials and students since mid-January 2019.
During the news conference, McCracken County Captain Ryan Norman reported that four incidents involving students and faculty at the McCracken County High School are under investigation.
The investigation involves three school employees and an 18-year-old former student.
“It would appear at this time that each and every one are independent of one another," said Sheriff Matt Carter about the investigations.
In addition to the investigations, Capt. Norman also said in the news conference that prosecutors charged the McCracken County High School principal and the director of pupil personnel on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
The principal was charged with official misconduct and failing to report abuse. The director was charged with official misconduct. Those charges were later dropped, except for the failing to report abuse charge against the principal.
By Friday, April 5, the charge of failing to report abuse against the principal was dropped.
Matthew Houser was selected as interim principal of McCracken County High School.
McCracken County Attorney Sam Clymer filed an order on Friday, March 1 dismissing charges of second-degree official misconduct against the high school principal and the director of pupil personnel.
“The bottom line is that I no longer believe that the facts of this case support the charge of Official Misconduct 2nd Degree,” said Clymer. “Given this belief, it is incumbent upon me to take immediate responsive action. The right thing to do in this situation is to see to that these charges are promptly dismissed so that the ends of justice can be served. I did that this morning.”
Clyburn cited that the previously accepted interpretation of that statute was not correct. That statue involved “intentionally causing an internal investigation to be conducted by school personnel into an allegation of criminal activity perpetrated by a student against another student rather than immediately reporting the alleged criminal activity to law enforcement authorities.”
McCracken County Sheriff Matt Carter, McCracken County Schools Superintendent Brian Harper, McCracken County Attorney Sam Clymer and members of the McCracken School board also attended the news conference on the open investigations.
The McCracken County Schools Superintendent said the district will have training with all faculty and staff. McCracken County Sheriff Matt Carter would be there to assist.
In a press release, Sheriff Carter made the following statement.
The sheriff said he also wanted to clarify another alleged incident involving students having sexual contact in the McCracken County High School Library.
He said when the incident first came up in late 2018, the McCracken County School Resource Officers reported it to sheriff’s detectives. It was determined through the investigation that no sexual act happened and that a wide-spread recording was of two students that had staged the incident to make those that saw the video believe a sexual act did happen.
After receiving multiple calls about the alleged incident, the sheriff said they believe no criminal act occurred based on information they received and gathered.
Sheriff Carter said they have again received multiple calls and they confirmed no criminal act happened and it was handled administratively within the school. He said they confirmed that as a result of the “hoax,” school officials made the precautionary decision to alter the school library by shortening book shelves so students wouldn’t be concealed.