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5 Rocky River teachers resign, 6th retires, following investigation into inappropriate comments

Rocky River High School
Posted at 11:48 AM, Apr 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-07 12:11:19-04

ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — Five Rocky River teachers have resigned and a sixth has submitted for retirement after the Rocky River School District placed them on leave after a video surfaced of teachers talking about a colleague who claimed to have sent them an inappropriate photo of student.

“In lieu of a lengthy employment termination process, the departure of these six staff members provides our school district with the swiftest route -- without litigation -- to provide 100% certainty that these individuals will not return to a Rocky River City School District classroom,” Rocky River City School District superintendent Michael Shoaf said in a statement.

During the investigation of the information contained in the video relating to three high school teachers, the district obtained photographs of a fully clothed student on the phone of one of the teachers. The photos were taken in the classroom and deemed inappropriate enough to warrant concern because they violated board policy, the district said.

Three staff members and two additional high school teachers were involved in an inappropriate text chain regarding staff members. The district said the investigation revealed the text chain between five individuals, which was private, did not contain any photos of students.

Those involved were removed from the campus. Subsequently, of these five teachers, four have resigned from their positions and one has retired.

A former student contacted the district to express concern over another member of the high school staff regarding alleged inappropriate communication and contact that occurred over the past year. This sixth staff member was immediately removed from the building and has since resigned from his employment.

In a statement, Shoaf said the district will lead a healing initiative to ensure student safety and staff training.

Let us be clear. The Rocky River City School District holds our staff to the highest professional and ethical standards and anything less than this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. If the safety of a student is in question, it is the professional and ethical obligation of our staff members to report that situation to the proper individuals. This expectation has been made clear to our staff members on many occasions as well as during mandatory annual trainings. Any conduct to the contrary does not reflect the culture of the dedicated educators and staff of the Rocky River City School District.

Moving forward, we continue to be committed to creating a safe environment for all students that closely adheres to the values and priorities of the Rocky River community. As a district, it is our intention to use this matter as an opportunity to reinforce the high professional and ethical behavioral expectations we have for our staff. Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Anderson will lead a healing initiative which will ensure student safety and reinforce staff training. The Rocky River High School counseling team, the McKeon Education Group and the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio will all be involved in this initiative.

I want to thank the community for its patience during our investigative process and once again assure you that the safety and well-being of all students throughout the district will continue to be our number one priority.

Click HERE to view the full video statement.

Rocky River Teachers Association President David Opdycke released the following statement:

“The safety and well-being of the students is always the top priority of the staff of the Rocky River City School District. As president of the Rocky River Teachers Association, I am disappointed to learn of the resignations of all of the members involved in recent investigations, but grateful to them for choosing to put the community first with their decisions to step down.

To be clear, the investigations into the video that was inadvertently recorded found that there were no sexually explicit pictures of students and no grounds for criminal charges. While there were photographs of a student on one phone of a teacher, those photographs were taken in a classroom setting to evidence that the student was not wearing a mask, and the photographs were not transmitted from one teacher to another. However, due to the ongoing distraction this has all created in the Rocky River community, the two employees in the video and the employee they were discussing on camera have chosen to resign.

In the course of the investigation into the video, private communications between those three employees and two other members came to light. Again, there were no photographs of students, inappropriate or otherwise, during those private communications; however, it did contain comments about other staff members of which these members were not proud. All of the teachers are deeply remorseful. The communication, while intended for private consumption only among the adults, has only created further distractions, so the two other employees have decided to step down.

A sixth employee, who was the subject of an unrelated investigation, has also chosen to resign rather than continue to allow the Rocky River schools community to be harmed by the ongoing, unfounded rumors these situations have spurred.

After the investigation, it is clear that no students were put at risk by either the private text chain or photograph taken. Part of the healing process for students, staff and the Rocky River residents will be letting go of the anger and panic triggered by the false narrative in the community. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and realize that these teachers are leaving, not because of inappropriate pictures of a student passed around in a text chain, because that did not happen, but due to insensitive private communications and the media firestorm that made staying in Rocky River an untenable position.

Rocky River teachers are among some of the best in the state. They are dedicated to their students’ safety and success, and the well-being of the entire community. It is the hope of the entire RRTA that the community can now begin to move forward and once again place their trust in the exceptional educators who work with their children every day.”


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