Your Courts, Their Secrets
Issaquah opens probe into role of principal in Northshore case
Seattle Times staff reporters
The Issaquah School District has hired an independent investigator to look into allegations that Skyline High School Principal Ed Young failed to respond appropriately to complaints of fondling lodged against a teacher who had worked for him in another school district.
The move comes in response to a Seattle Times story on Sunday that described a legal claim filed against the Northshore School District and four principals, including Young. The claim alleged that they failed to act on multiple warnings of inappropriate touching by John Carl Leede, a former elementary-school teacher convicted of assaulting students.
"Essentially, the article raises a question of Mr. Young's fitness for the principalship," Issaquah Superintendent Janet Barry said.
The story prompted some parents to call or write the district about Young. "I'm hearing alarm," Barry said. "It's like having a bomb go off in your front yard. They're trying to figure out what this means."
The legal claim, filed by the families of three girls who were fondled by Leede, was settled in 2001 for $700,000. A secrecy agreement prohibited the families from discussing the settlement's terms or from disparaging the principals, the Northshore district or Leede.
The newspaper wrote about the case as part of a continuing investigation of improperly sealed court records.
While at Northshore, Young had received at least nine complaints from teachers, staff members and parents about Leede touching students, according to school and law-enforcement records. Young did not discipline Leede or notify police or Child Protective Services, school records show.
On Sunday, Barry called Young into a meeting with her and two other top district officials. She told Young of the district's plan to investigate his supervision of Leede.
"It's my top priority to look into these concerns now," Barry told The Seattle Times.
Young did not return a telephone call from the newspaper Monday. Before the story on Sunday, he canceled an interview and then didn't respond to telephone messages.
The district on Monday hired Chris Burton as its investigator. He previously worked as director of human resources and in-house counsel for the Auburn School District and has conducted high-level investigations of administrators, according to the Issaquah School District.
Young worked for the Northshore School District until 2000, when he took a job in the Mukilteo School District. He retired there in 2004, leaving as principal of Kamiak High School.
Last year, he became principal of Skyline High School in Sammamish. He now makes $106,000 as principal. He also gets a retirement allowance of about $52,000 a year, according to the state Department of Retirement Systems.
When hiring Young, the Issaquah district checked references in the Mukilteo district because he had been a high-school principal there and was up for the same position at Skyline, Barry said. "He came to us with impeccable references," she said.
Barry said she did not know that Northshore had reprimanded Young for inadequate supervision of Leede.
Young posted a statement Monday on Skyline's Web site saying: "I am and always have been a responsible administrator. I do not tolerate any employee misconduct, especially those behaviors that hurt students."
Young called the article "devastating" and wrote: "The article characterizes me as irresponsible in a manner that seriously compromised young students. This is especially disturbing to me because the issues in the article are not what I recall from my work in the Northshore School District.
"I believe the substance of the article was drawn from family statements in court proceedings at which I was not present, and of which I had no first-hand knowledge. I was never called to testify, nor given a chance to describe the incidents from my perspective."
The article, in fact, drew from statements that were provided to the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office and to a district investigator and a personnel executive after Leede's arrest. In addition, some of the complaints were provided to him in writing by teachers or parents upset with Leede's inappropriate touching of students.
Young has been given repeated opportunities to provide his perspective of how he handled Leede. Young was questioned about Leede by a district investigator, and was interviewed by the sheriff's office, although he "did not wish to submit to a recorded interview," according to law-enforcement records.
Young also discussed his handling of Leede with top district officials shortly before they formally reprimanded him in August 1999, according to school records.
Leede, now 55, was convicted in 2000 of seven misdemeanors and sentenced to eight months in jail. He's a registered sex offender living in Seattle.
The superintendent of the Northshore School District, Karen Forys, posted a message on that district's Web site Monday, saying the accusation of failing to protect students from Leede "is certainly a painful part of our history of which no one is proud."
Forys' statement says an investigator hired by Northshore after Leede's arrest in May 1999 "found that a number of people had reported Mr. Leede's inappropriate behavior to supervisors. That information had not been properly documented nor shared with anyone at the District Office. In short, the system failed because our own procedures to protect children were not followed."
Ken Armstrong: 206-464-3730 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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