Canfield police report says school district frequently circumvents police

27 Investigates

Some of the issues noted include an alleged sexual assault and a student with disciplinary problems bringing a knife to school, although police say the school resource officer wasn't notified until later

CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – The Canfield Police Department released a report, detailing more than 20 incidents in which they say the school district failed to notify a school resource officer about potential issues when they arose.

Some of the issues noted include an alleged sexual assault, a student with disciplinary problems bringing a knife to school and a physical altercation between a faculty member and a student with special needs, leading to the resignation or firing of the faculty member.

The information was released to School Board President David Wilkeson on Wednesday after he questioned the police department’s report, which noted the district “has a history of failing to report serious threats and other significant incidents to law enforcement.”

“Not allowing political agenda to compromise our joint mission,” Wilkeson said during a news conference Tuesday.

In six cases, a police investigation was impeded — mostly because administrators refused to allow police to interview people.

In four cases, information was delayed. Something like a fight was reported, but either a few days or a month later.

The police department says not every incident constitutes a violation of criminal law, but each incident reflects a violation of the agreement that it has with the district.

Some of what was reported by police was backed up by one Canfield parent at Wednesday night’s school board meeting.

“A lack of communication, corrupt actions, the lack of following policies and the lack of documentation of events are very common in this school,” Michele Piver said.

Of the 22 incidents in Thursday’s report, Superintendent Alex Geordan was specifically named is four of them.

Police say Geordan would not permit police to interview people and also instructed no police report be issued.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, Geordan said his administration considerers the students to be their own.

The department listed the following incidents in its report:

  • On December 11, 2012, the school resource officer learned that a student with a history of disciplinary issues brought a knife to school. According to Principal Moldovan, he was instructed by Superintendent Geordan to handle it “himself.”
  • On January 11, 2013, a school official learned from a concerned student that another student was in possession of a suspected bomb in a locker at the high school. The faculty member did not inform the SRO or the fire department. The “suspected bomb” was investigated by a faculty member of CHS, and the item was later identified as a capacitor, not a bomb.
  • On May 31, 2013, a Canfield High School faculty member advised the school resource officer that a student appeared to be under the influence of marijuana. The administration spoke with the student alone in his office, and the student was sent home after the interview. Police said the student was allowed to drive home, despite his suspected impairment.
  • On June 3, 2013, the school resource officer received calls from a Canfield Village Middle School administrator and parent advising that the parent’s son was kicked in the groin. The parent wanted the officer involved, but police say the administration didn’t want police involvement and wouldn’t allow them to speak with any parties involved while in the school.
  • On September 10, 2013, an officer fielded a report of a stolen cell phone, which was later found on a student. Six days later, the school resource officer received a complaint that a tablet was stolen during the 7th and 8th-grade volleyball game. The officer reported identifying a suspect but learned that the school was already conducting an investigation but never notified the officer as such. Police said Geordan told staff that the officer wasn’t permitted to interview students at school or serve any citations there.
  • On November 1, 2013, the school resource officer spoke with an administrator who reported staff members investigated a report that students were under the influence of marijuana the day before and had determined that they weren’t under the influence. The officer wasn’t notified until after they investigated it.
  • On October 28, 2013, a school resource officer received a report that two students were involved in a fight at the October 25th football game. The fight happened as each student called the other a racial slur.
  • On November 7, 2013, the officer reported seeing administration speaking with a student in regard to a fight that the student had been involved in.
  • On November 11, 2013, the officer received information that a student was involved in a fight earlier in the school year, and a participant in the fight confirmed that.
  • On November 26, 2013, the officer received a report of a possible physical altercation between a faculty member and a student with special needs. The administration refused to speak with the officer, according to the report, and the involved teacher either resigned or was fired.
  • During the summer of 2014, the officer spoke with a confidential source who advised during the second half of the 2013-2014 school year, the administration looked into an allegation of drug trafficking involving a student trading Adderall pills for steroids. Geordan told them not to report the incident to Canfield police.
  • On January 27, 2015, Canfield Village Middle School administration would not permit the school resource officer to speak with three students about a fight, according to police.
  • On February 9, 2015, the parents of a high school student met with an administrator during the school day. They reported that their child had been sexually assaulted by another student while at school. Police said two administrators questioned the student regarding the allegation and that he was the subject of a police investigation, but the school resource officer wasn’t informed until after the school day had ended.
  • On September 21, 2015, a school resource officer was informed that two students had been fighting but he was never notified by school faculty, according to the report.
  • On November 16, 2015, the school resource officer was advised by a dispatcher that they received an anonymous tip that a student had a needle in their backpack. Administrators said this may have been about a student who was stabbed by another student with a thumbtack, and that student was taken by the family for HIV testing. The administrator said they forgot to notify the officer, according to police.
  • On June 10, 2016, a Canfield police detective was interviewing a witness as part of a criminal investigation. The detective learned that the witness was a teacher who had been previously subjected to an internal investigation by the district’s administration. The teacher had been accused of having a sexual relationship with a student, and the allegation was not reported to Canfield police. Police said their interview with the teacher resulted in finding evidence that the teacher had lied to the administration, and the teacher subsequently resigned or was fired.
  • On November 17, 2017, the school resource officer was notified that a note was discovered at the middle school, which read, “I want to kill my math teacher.” The student was suspended from the school and the officer wasn’t notified, according to police.
  • On September 25, 2017, the officer was notified that one student slammed another student’s head into a locker. The officer was never notified of the incident.
  • On December 13, 2017, fires were located in two separate restrooms. Police say they developed a suspect, but the middle school’s administration refused to allow the school resource officer to interview a student suspect. That student was eventually arrested on an arson charge.
  • On February 27, 2018, middle school administration informed the school resource officer that they received information that two students talked about a school shooting. Police say an administrator showed the officer a text message from Superintendent Geordan reading something to the effect of “it would be better if there is no police report.”
  • On April 10, 2018, a teacher’s Bluetooth speaker was stolen at the middle school. The officer wasn’t notified, although the teacher wanted the officer’s involvement, according to police.
  • On April 10, 2018, the officer fielded a report of a student alleging abuse. The student previously reported this to the school, which referred it to Children Services but not the school resource officer, according to police.

Canfield Local Schools responded to the report Thursday afternoon, saying the Board of Education takes the allegations very seriously and is working to improve how it handles threats. The district said most student misconduct can be handled internally without police intervention.

We did text Wilkeson, who is traveling on business and was not aware of what was going on.

The report was the subject of an angry school board meeting Wednesday night, which led to the parent of the alleged victim to storm out of the meeting.

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