BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The parent of a former Fort Madison Middle School student has filed a complaint with an Iowa board that could launch an investigation into how school officials handled an alleged abuse incident last year.
Brian Wright, of Fort Madison, has submitted a complaint to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners after citing several Fort Madison School Board policy violations surrounding the investigation of an alleged assault he claims his daughter suffered at the hands of Fort Madison Middle School principal Todd Dirth.
Wright alleges Dirth grabbed his daughter’s arm, detaining her after she failed to say “Good Morning” as part of a daily morning greeting routine at the school in the fall. Wright claims Dirth left a bruise on his daughter’s arm.
School board policy 402.3-r-1 regarding alleged abuse, requires a written, signed, and witnessed report to be submitted to the district and Wright said he didn’t complete a written report, but said he was never instructed to do so in conversations with the district. Several emails between school officials and Wright indicate correspondence between Wright’s family, including his former wife, and school officials that included Dirth following up with the student and Wright’s disappointment in how the incident was investigated.
The policy indicates the school’s Level 1 investigator, which is identified as the Superintendent, is required to conduct an investigation including interviews with all parties involved. The Superintendent can also assist the complainant in creating the report upon request. School policy also indicates a report of the investigation is to be prepared and given to the parties involved within 15 days. Wright claims that report was not generated.
School Superintendent Erin Slater declined to comment on any specifics of the case Wednesday morning citing confidentiality of staff and a minor student.
The district did issue a statement Tuesday indicating it has not been made aware by the Iowa Association of School Boards of any complaint submitted to them regarding the district.
“The district takes any parent complaints it receives very seriously. When a parent submits a complaint, the District investigates and appropriately addresses the matter. While there may be times the parent submitting the complaint does not agree with what the District has done, this does not mean that the District took no action or did not appropriately address the situation.”
According to IBEE procedures, once the complaint is received, the executive director will determine if the board has jurisdiction to hear the case and then either accept or deny it. If it’s accepted, the board will conduct an investigation, a board review, and offer a proposed decision, which has review and appeals options. Iowa code requires complaints be resolved in 180 days unless due cause can be shown for an extension.
Wright said he’s looking for the district to be held accountable for Dirth’s alleged actions and the district’s investigation of the incident.