Political fight over teacher allegations

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Allegations made against a Moline High School teacher are at the center of a political debate in Moline’s mayoral race.

Your Local Election Headquarters looked into the latest developments.

Moline school board president and mayoral candidate Sangeetha Rayapati on Tuesday accused Mayor Stephanie Acri of mailing misleading flyers to homes about how the school board handled an incident involving a teacher.

That teacher went on administrative leave in November.

But the district won’t say why.

The flyers come from a local political group called “The Committee for Better City Government.”

They say, “Rayapati failed to fire a teacher who admitted to sending pornagraphic material to minors.”

Rayapati responded with a news conference Tuesday saying the school board did everything it could to protect students.

“Decisive action was taken at the time of this incident to remove the teacher from the classroom and why she remains on leave,” Rayapati said. “And, why procedures have been carefully followed by our staff to make sure that when the board is finally presented with options for discipline that due diligence has been achieved.”

We contacted Acri, who says the flyers didn’t come from her.

“My opponent has falsely accused my campaign of sending mail to residents that is critical of her record and her lack of leadership,” Acri said. “It has not. My campaign has focused on the positive achievements of the last four years and on the issues facing Moline.”

According to the Illinois State Board of Elections website, the group that sent the flyers supports Acri’s campaign and donated $15,000 to Acri’s campaign committee on March 11.

As for the teacher at the center of this controversy, the Moline-Coal Valley School District says it got the results of a criminal investigation by Moline police and the district will soon wrap up its internal investigation.

Local 4 News inquired about the case on March 5, but Moline Police Chief Darren Gault responded Tuesday that “the police department and our Juvenile Investigation Division … were wrapping up this investigation.”

Gault released an email to Local 4 from the Assistant State’s Attorney Heidi Weller declining to pursue charges.

In it, Weller “questioned the judgment involved in communicating with students via Snapchat,” but said they would be “unable to meet our burden of proof ” that “a pornographic video was disseminated knowingly or intentionally to students via Snapchat,” “the fact that the video was immediately deleted tends to support [redacted’s] assertion that the video was sent out inadvertently” and “there does not appear to be any intent to groom individual students.”

Gault also shared some details of the investigation now that it has wrapped.

“The allegation was that an inappropriate video was shared to students on social media,” Gault wrote. “It has taken awhile due to the delay by a social media platform in returning records to the police department. We just got those back for review at the end of February. The Rock Island County State’s Attorney reviewed the facts of the case on March 1, 2021 and determined there were no applicable criminal charges. The case was turned back over to the Moline-Coal Valley School District on March 9, 2021 to conduct an internal investigation. There are a variety of laws that require a criminal investigation done by a police department and an employee investigation done by an employer to be separate and not interfere with each other. An error in crossing over those lines may violate someone’s rights. So these are conducted separately and the criminal case typically takes precedence.”

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