Blue Earth Area School District officials have given a Woodbury firm a “ blank check” in hopes of regaining the public’s trust.
Board members unanimously voted Monday night to hire Soldo Consulting, P.C., to investigate whether district officials responded properly after learning that a football player had been allegedly assaulted by four teammates.
Board chairman Jesse Haugh says because some people feel that disciplinary action taken against the students was too harsh, it was felt a third party should be called in to review the district’s process.
In a letter to Superintendent Evan Gough dated Feb. 9, Michelle Soldo says she has no knowledge of law enforcement’s investigation of the alleged assault that occurred at a house party Oct. 9 in Winnebago.
“The review will examine the process used by the School District in its investigation of an incident following receipt of a report on Nov. 6, 2017, through Dec. 8, 2017, and the School District’s compliance with the Minnesota State High School League rules and by-laws,” wrote Soldo.
Gough would not say if the independent review process will look into the 10-day suspension given to the four students or a decision to not allow them to participate in winter sports.
The district has agreed to pay Soldo an hourly rate of $145, mileage, lodging costs if necessary and any postage or copying costs.
Board member Sheila Ripley says she wonders why a review is needed and if it being done just to please a few who have been critical of administrators.
“I think as a district we need some healing,” says Ripley. “We’ve had a lot of unkind words said. I just hope at some time we can move forward.”
While the review could end up being costly, board members Sara Hauskins and Jeremy Coxworth believe it will help answer a lot of the public’s questions.
“We’re doing this for the school, administrators and staff,” says Hauskins. “So that we can show the public that everything is O.K. here in our district.”
Last October, the four players beat their 16-year-old teammate – a sophomore lineman – unconscious, says a criminal complaint, and took a cell phone video of the attack.
According to court papers, the student sustained bruising and swelling to his face as well as a concussion.
On Nov. 6, the victim’s mother took him to a doctor where his concussions were diagnosed. While there, he told them of the beating and she reported the alleged assault to an assistant coach.
Police began investigating the incident on Nov. 9 after learning about it from a Faribault County sheriff’s deputy who is the resource officer at the high school.
A week after the team’s state quarterfinal loss to Pipestone on Nov. 10, police arrested the four players.
Three of the players were charged with third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault, while the other faces an aiding and abetting charge.
All of the cases are still pending, with two of the players being prosecuted in juvenile court.