Merced police detectives are investigating allegations surrounding a Weaver Middle School teacher accused by students of using a cellphone to film them changing clothes in a campus girls locker room.
Superintendent John Curry said district officials examined the phone in question and found “no evidence” that any such filming or photography actually happened, but said the teacher was placed on administrative leave over “questions of unprofessionalism” in connection with the same incident.
Allegations surfaced just before noon Sept. 21. Curry said district officials examined the cellphone “immediately – within that first hour.”
“If a cellphone was taken out in a situation like that or in a place like that, we have questions regarding professionalism or inappropriate behavior by an adult that we have an obligation to investigate,” Curry said. “If employees do something that’s unprofessional we want to address that. But we found nothing criminal in our initial investigation.”
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The teacher’s name will not be disclosed because that teacher has not been formally accused of any wrongdoing by law enforcement and the district’s internal investigation turned up no criminal evidence.
The Merced Sun-Star began looking into the allegations Tuesday night and spoke with district officials and police Wednesday morning. Merced police on Wednesday morning confirmed that no parent or school official had contacted them regarding the incident.
District authorities contacted the Merced Police Department just before noon Wednesday.
Curry said the district “fulfilled” its requirement to contact law enforcement when they called CPS on Sept. 21. He said district officials contacted Merced police Wednesday “on advice from legal counsel.”
Merced Police Capt. Chris Goodwin said the delay was “concerning.” In general, Goodwin said, delaying reports to police could jeopardize evidence.
“They really couldn’t tell us why they didn’t call us sooner,” Goodwin told the Sun-Star. “If they thought it was important enough to call us (Wednesday), they should’ve called us when this occurred. Time is always of the essence in every case and the sooner we get the information, the better.”
The fact that school officials did not find any evidence of a crime was the reason school officials did not contact the Merced Police Department until Wednesday, Curry said.
“Every parent whose child would’ve been involved in this incident was notified,” Curry said.
Police and school officials emphasized the claims against the teacher are allegations only, at this point, and no hard evidence of any wrongdoing has been found.
“We’re looking into the complaint and it hasn’t even been officially categorized as a crime right now,” Goodwin said.
Because police weren’t notified at the time of the claim, investigators have been unable to speak with the teacher in question, Goodwin said.
“Because (the teacher) has been placed on leave we weren’t able to interview (the teacher),” Goodwin. “We haven’t been able to get a hold of (the teacher.”)
Police are hoping anyone “with specific information” or “knowledge” of the incident will contact them, but also said parent complaints, concerns and questions should be directed to the school district.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Merced Police Detective-Sgt. Curt Gorman at 209-385-4706.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482