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UPDATE | Attorney in charge of review of Woodward volunteers has long history of workplace investigations

The outside, independent attorney hired to look into allegations that lunchtime volunteers at Woodward Middle School have been inappropriately sharing their religious beliefs with students has a long history of investigating employment issues.

The Bainbridge Island School District hired attorney Shawn Ann Flood to investigate the activities of volunteers at Woodward Middle School after parents of some students raised concerns with district officials earlier this month. Volunteers at Woodward include non-parents and youth pastors in the community.

Peter Bang-Knudsen, assistant superintendent of administrative services for the Bainbridge school district, said the investigation will assess the process of how volunteers at the middle school become volunteers, as well as past interactions between Woodward volunteers and students.

Woodward Middle School principal Mike Florian said earlier that the school has not received any reports of volunteers proselytizing or recruiting students on campus, and also noted the school recently began background checks for all regular volunteers, including those who help out at lunch.

Flood, an attorney with the Tacoma law firm of Kampbell, Andrews & Arbenz, met with Bang-Knudsen on Oct. 8 to discuss the investigation. School officials said she has since spoken with Woodward staff, students and parents.

Flood is being paid $260 an hour for her work on the investigation, including travel time. She will also bill the district for incidental expenses such as mileage, bridge tolls and other out-of-pocket expenses.

According to Flood's résumé, she is a 1982 graduate of the University of Puget Sound School of Law (now Seattle University) and was admitted to practice law in Washington and federal courts in 1983.

She was previously an associate attorney with the Tacoma law firm of Vandeberg, Johnson and Gandara, and also served as a judicial clerk for the late judge John A. Petrich, a former state representative and senator who served on the bench for the Div. II Court of Appeals from 1980 to 1993. Flood has also been an adjunct professor in the University of Puget Sound's School of Business.

Floor's current practice is focused on employment issues. According to her résumé, she has represented both public and private clients and her clients have included school districts, cities, counties, insurers and private businesses. For the past 25 years, Flood has investigated cases involving discrimination, civil rights violations, harassment, whistle blowing, defamation and slander, unlawful imprisonment and other issues.

In an email to parents Friday, Bang-Knudsen said the fact-finding phase of the investigation would likely end next week.

"After the information is gathered, the investigator’s findings will be analyzed to determine if any behaviors or actions of volunteers or staff have violated district policies or procedures. If necessary, corrective actions will be taken," Bang-Knudsen wrote.

"When controversy arises within a community, it is a good time to revisit our core beliefs," Bang-Knudsen added. "The school district’s highest priority is to create a safe and supportive learning environment for our students.

"With this goal in mind, research tells us that highly effective schools have high levels of parent and community involvement," he said. "We are grateful for the many parent and community members who work as volunteers in our schools, because we believe these partnerships enrich the education program we provide for our students. We will continue to balance the safety of our students with the opportunity for parent and community engagement, and we will continue to review and ensure our policies and procedures to achieve these goals. As we move towards resolution, I am confident that our community has the capacity to pull together and create even stronger schools that continue to foster student learning, student safety, and a high degree of parent and community involvement."

 

 

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