- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The apparent failure to report alleged incidents of sexual misconduct by a custodian at St. Paul Public Schools is being reviewed by prosecutors in Dakota County for possible charges.

Walter Happel, 62, of Newport, is a former janitor at Linwood Monroe Arts Plus school. He faces multiple charges of sexual misconduct.

Six of his alleged victims are students, including one who told staff in 2011 that Happel had followed him into a bathroom and exposed himself to the boy, and another who told staff in 2012 that Happel slapped his buttocks.

The Star Tribune reported (https://strib.mn/1n56k58 ) that school employees failed to report those incidents to police.

In February, another student told staff that Happel peeked at him in a bathroom stall. The school went to police in that case, and Happel was charged. The charges prompted more victims to come forward, and more charges to be filed.

School officials said Wednesday they are revising the district’s reporting practices.

Teachers, assistants, school administrators and support staff are required by law to go to authorities if they believe a child is abused.

Citing a conflict of interest, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office asked Dakota County to review the district’s response. It’s not clear how many employees are being investigated.

According to criminal complaints filed this week: Happel regularly followed students into bathrooms and looked at their genitals. In 2010, he allegedly pressed himself against the boy. That boy, now 17, is the same one who complained to a teacher and social worker in 2012.

In the 2011 case, the boy’s mother went to police when staff did not. When police asked the principal about Happel, “The principal said they have never had a problem with Happel before, nor had similar allegations been made against him,” court documents say.

But in 2003, Happel was reprimanded for giving candy to children at Roosevelt Elementary and a digital camera to a boy he allegedly met with in a bathroom. He ignored orders to stop the behavior, according to a disciplinary letter.

Nine months later Happel was working at Linwood Monroe.

St. Paul schools CEO Michelle Walker said the district is “very concerned and disturbed” by the allegations against Happel. She said all licensed and nonlicensed employees will now participate in training twice a year to ensure they understand their mandatory reporting obligations.

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com


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