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SPRINGFIELD

NEWS-LEADER FILE PHOTO


An election worker lays out voting
THE CASE
stickers during a previous election
day. Springfield City Council is
considering whether to put a
renewal of the level property tax
on the November ballot.
“In every professi
on,
OF RONNIE
More details
emerge on
there are people w
slip through the cr
and they get hire
– Dennis Lewis
ho
acks
d.” WHITE Red flags,
warning
signs and
cracks in
former director
potential of school police
“That’s what dis
sometimes. They
tricts do the system
move
tax renewal problems aroun
of getting rid of
d instead
ALISSA ZHU them.”
– Sharri Harwic
DZHU@NEWS-LEADER.COM
former principa k,
l
The deadline draws near for
Springfield City Council if they
want to ask voters to pass a tax
renewal in November. Fall Fall Fall Fall Fall Spring
The city’s needs are critical, 1984 1986 1995 1998 2005 2010
officials have said. And while Hired by Starts at Starts at Starts at Starts Retires from
millions of dollars are avail- Springfield Parkview Carver Central at Pipkin Springfield
able from the already existing Public High Middle High Middle Public
level property tax, that money Schools School School School School Schools
currently can’t be used for new
projects.
If voters approve, potential 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s
projects the city has cited in-
clude a police unit for investi-
gating human trafficking, new Spring Spring Spring Fall
fire stations for northwest 1993 2002 2007 2014
Springfield and daylighting there
Jordan Creek to allow for an ur- “I didn’t know Allegations Allegations and Fall Allegations
incidents surface surface 2008 surface
ban stream to run above
ground through a small part of
had been any Allegations that lead
im.”
downtown. before with h “There are Ron
surface to charges
There are still several deci- ick,
– Sharri Harw al
sions council members need to
former princi
p Whites everywhe
make before the Aug. 29 filing re .”
deadline for the November – Dennis Lewis
election. They include: Which former director
projects should be included? of school police
Should ongoing expenses such
as salaries be funded? How de-
tailed should the ballot lan-
guage be? Should the tax be set
to end after a number of years?
Is November the right date to
ask voters the big question?
Council’s Finance and Ad-
ministration Committee dis-
cussed those questions at a
Tuesday afternoon meeting
without coming to a consensus. CLAUDETTE RILEY CRILEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM
Councilman Richard Ollis AND GIACOMO BOLOGNA GBOLOGNA@NEWS-LEADER.COM FILED AND
was in favor of outlining the FORGOTTEN SE
onnie White spent 25 years as a Springfield teacher and RIES
See TAX, Page 6A

R coach. He moved, or was transferred, to five different


schools. And his personnel file collected complaints —
about sexual comments, touching and other inappropriate
activity — involving at least 10 underage girls.
Over the years, more than a dozen school employees were told
there was a problem, including teachers, counselors, principals,
school police officers and human resources officials.
Coming Tuesda
Complaint after
was dismissed. Th
and a confession.
Online: To see ot
and videos in this
y:
complaint
en a call,

her stories
series, go
online to News-L
But White stayed in the classroom. eader.
com/FiledAnd
It wasn’t until 2015, five years after he retired with full benefits,
Forgotten
that the public received a hint of what select school officials had
known for years: White had a problem keeping his hands to himself.
White was charged that year with committing sex crimes
against a young teen early in his career. The former student, now in
her 40s, told police White fondled her, engaged in oral sex and digi- INSIDE
tally penetrated her behind closed doors at her home and Parkview osecutor
Who to call: Pr
High School. s W hi te ca se ‘empowers
hope
He pleaded guilty to deviate sexual assault, a felony. He was s’ of se xual
other victim
I am an American branded a sex offender. assaul t, Pa ge 4A
We are One Nation At a hearing to determine jail time, a Greene County prosecutor
How we report
ed it: An
dropped a bombshell: The girl was not the first to complain about e News-Leader
Each week, this series will explaine r of th
White. Confidential school personnel records, obtained by the po- d the
introduce you to an exceptional lice, showed the former teacher was repeatedly accused of crossing investigation an
ob ta in ed ,
American who unites, rather records
than divides, our communities. See WHITE, Page 4A Page 4A
In this installment, read about
Stephanie Paredes, of Rochester, USA TODAY NETWORK ILLUSTRATION/GETTY IMAGES
New York, co-founder of the
Rochester Latino Theater
Company. Page 6E

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4A July 30, 2017 SUNDAY NEWS-LEADER § News-Leader.com

THE CASE OF
RONNIE WHITE

Prosecutor hopes case ‘empowers other victims’


from 8 a.m. to 4 entities, including:
No statute of limitations for serious felonies in Missouri p.m. weekdays. » The Victim Center, 819 N.
Cox said the Boonville Ave., 417-863-7273
CLAUDETTE RILEY you have the allegations from ed forcible rape and forcible so- Uniform Crime » Child Advocacy Center,
CRILEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM 20 years ago,” he said. “You domy. Reporting Pro- 1033 E. Walnut St., 417-831-2327
AND GIACOMO BOLOGNA have a victim who over time and Prosecutions for other un- gram, managed » Harmony House, 3404 E.
GBOLOGNA@NEWS-LEADER.COM based on her training and expe- lawful sex acts involving indi- by the FBI, de- Ridgeview St., 417-837-7700
rience, becoming a profession- viduals under age 18 must start Dan Patterson fines rape as While law enforcement will
It is not too late to come for- al, decided it was time for her to within 20 years of the victim penetration, no likely get involved, a young vic-
ward. come forward and talk about turning age 18. matter how slight, of the vagina tim has the option of reporting
That is a message Greene what happened to her.” Springfield police spokes- or anus with any body part or the incident to a “mandated re-
County Prosecutor Dan Patter- Patterson said while “de- woman Lisa Cox said calling object. porter.” In Missouri, the list of
son hopes will resonate with layed disclosure” is quite com- “911 is definitely our first choice In 2016, there were 280 rapes mandated reporters includes
victims of sexual assault who mon, the outcome of this case — for reporting.” She said if vic- reported in Springfield. In the physicians, nurses, social work-
learn of the Ronnie White case. the criminal charge and the tims call 417-864-1810, they will first five months of 2017, from ers, day care staff, teachers,
Patterson’s office success- guilty plea — will encourage be transferred to 911 dispatch so January through May, 87 rapes ministers, law enforcement of-
fully obtained a guilty plea from others to speak up. an officer can be sent to their lo- were reported. ficials and others responsible
the former Springfield teacher “When people come forward cation. For those outside city limits, for the care of children.
and coach. Last year, White ad- like that, it also empowers other Victims also can file reports the Greene County Sheriff’s Of- The Children’s Division
mitted to engaging in deviate victims,” he said. at police headquarters, 321 E. fice is at 1010 N. Boonville Ave. Child Abuse and Neglect Hot-
sexual assault of a teen, a for- Under Missouri law, there is Chestnut Expressway, from 7 and can be reached at 417-868- line is a toll-free line answered
mer student, in the early 1990s. no statute of limitations for the a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a 4040. 24 hours a day, seven days a
“This is an unusual case in most serious felony crimes, in- week or at the south district sta- Both law enforcement agen- week, all year. The number is 1-
the way it came about, where cluding forcible rape, attempt- tion, 2620 W. Battlefield Road, cies routinely work with other 800-392-3738.

How we
reported
GIACOMO BOLOGNA
GBOLOGNA@NEWS-LEADER.COM
AND CLAUDETTE RILEY
CRILEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM

When a retired Spring-


field teacher was convict-
ed in 2016 of sexually abus-
ing a Parkview High
School student, the News-
Leader investigated and
found the teacher, Ronnie
White, was moved from
school to school as student
complaints were doubted,
ignored and forgotten.
Parents, students and
even some principals were
never made aware that
White was accused of
touching or sexually ha-
rassing at least 10 girls dur-
ing a career that spanned
more than two decades.
The school district
hasn’t told them — and
wouldn’t if they asked.
Under Missouri law,
complaints against teach-
ers are not considered pub- ANDREW JANSEN/NEWS-LEADER
lic records if they are han- Ronnie White garnered attention as a winning coach at Parkview High. He was reassigned from Parkview after allegations of sexual harassment.
dled by a school district.
Springfield Public Schools
refused to release any of
the complaints against
White or acknowledge
White
their existence. Continued from Page 1A
However, a prosecutor
mentioned the complaints
at White’s 2016 sentencing the line with female students.
hearing, saying White was Although the details were
“essentially being protect- not shared in court, the News-
ed by his employers.” Six Leader was able to obtain the
months after the sentenc- files through an open records
ing hearing, the case was request. The compiled docu-
closed, and the News-Lead- ments reference troublesome
er filed a Sunshine Law re- interactions White allegedly
quest to obtain the docu- had with at least 10 middle and SUBMITTED PHOTO
ments cited by the prose- high school girls while em- A photo of Jayne and Ronnie
cutor. ployed by Springfield Public White in the photocopied
Those documents show Schools. sentencing report provided by
the school district repeat- Allegations from the early attorney Dee Wampler.
edly dismissed accusa- 1990s to the late 2000s included
tions from students; one behavior experts have de-
girl was forced to take a scribed as textbook “groom- If principals didn’t know,
polygraph test. At one ing” of potential victims and, in parents and students didn’t
point, administrators some cases, involved inappro- know either.
“strongly” advised White priate touching and sexually “He was put there by the dis-
to stop touching students suggestive language. trict office,” said former Pip-
— advice he wouldn’t fol- “You had all these incidents kin Middle School Principal
low. of various degrees of inappro- SUBMITTED BY JAYNE WHITE Sharri Harwick. “Every now
The News-Leader also priate behavior that appear to Ronnie White during his coaching years in Springfield Public Schools. and then, I would get someone
requested and obtained a all have been viewed in isola- sent to me.”
transcript of White’s phone tion from one another,” said Harwick and others said
calls with the woman he Greene County Prosecutor Dan to comment on White’s case or gations of inappropriate behav- they were never given a heads-
abused in the early 1990s — Patterson, whose office suc- make public the documents re- ior by White were not a secret. up about White’s history.
phone calls that would be- cessfully prosecuted the case. lated to the complaints. Over the years, they were re- “I didn’t know there had
come the foundation of the He said if the incidents had Details in the school records ported to more than a dozen been any incidents before with
criminal case against the been viewed together, it might obtained by police prompted school employees, including him,” she said. “If I had known
former educator. have “caused a different reac- prosecutor Nathan Chapman to teachers, counselors, princi- there had been, I would have
Records obtained show tion.” allege, at White’s sentencing, pals, school police and human watched him like a hawk.”
White was one of the high- Altogether, the records pro- that he was “essentially being resources officials. One principal said he was
est paid teachers when he vide a rare glimpse into how protected by his employers.” As part of the recent investi- told about previous issues only
retired in 2010 and that he the district handled investiga- He noted school investigators gation, a former Parkview after allegations surfaced in
was apparently never dis- tions of a sexual nature and repeatedly found that White coach told police he knew his building. At Pipkin, the final
ciplined for touching or ha- highlight cracks in the system did nothing wrong. White had a “relationship” with school where White worked,
rassing a student. that allowed White — and pos- More than once, school offi- a student. He admitted walking Harwick said she was never
During the monthslong sibly other abusers — to re- cials questioned the credibility in on the two, in a dark room, told, even after allegations
investigation, the News- main in the classroom despite a of the girls who came forward. grabbing at their pants. He said were lodged there, as well.
Leader reviewed police re- string of allegations. At least one girl was asked to he reported the incident to a No one seemed to be looking
ports, school memos and The documents also raise take a lie detector test. There is counselor. at the big picture. If a pattern
internal investigations, alarming questions: no record White was asked to The counselor didn’t recall was suspected, no one sounded
and interviewed teachers, » Is anybody keeping track do the same. the report; neither did the prin- the alarm.
school administrators, ex- of school employees who are Another girl’s allegations cipal. If any investigation was The disconnect may have
perts and local law en- accused of crossing the line, were dismissed, in part, be- conducted, nothing came of it. been due, in part, to a tug of war
forcement. even if they are not disciplined, cause administrators were told Other complaints, once re- over how in-house personnel
White declined to com- to see if patterns emerge? by her guardian that she had ported and investigated, all but investigations were conducted
ment for this series. » Why were investigations been the victim of a previous disappeared into a vacuum. in recent decades. Early in
He was sentenced to handled mostly “in house” with rape and overreacted to all men White moved from one White’s career, they were han-
seven years in prison, little or no involvement from as a result. school to the next. His record dled by school police. Later,
though he only spent a few law enforcement agencies? School records give no indi- apparently did not follow. oversight was given to human
months behind bars for » If a teacher, previously ac- cation that White was repri- Principals in schools where resources.
sexually abusing the 14- cused of wrongdoing, moves manded, beyond a sternly White worked toward the end School officials say the cur-
year-old girl. from one school to the next, worded letter telling him to of his career told the News- rent setup is more of a hybrid,
In December, after 120 who has the right to know? stop touching girls so they Leader he was “placed” there, with mandatory involvement
days in a sexual offender School officials will say lit- wouldn’t misinterpret his but they were not told why. by outside agencies.
assessment unit, White tle, despite repeated requests “friendly gestures.” They said they were not told of
was released on probation. by the News-Leader, refusing The records also show alle- any prior allegations. Continued on Next Page
SUNDAY NEWS-LEADER § News-Leader.com July 30, 2017 5A

THE CASE OF
RONNIE WHITE
Timeline of a career, and the
complaints it almost concealed
White
Continued from Previous Page
NOW IS THE

TIME
Ronnie Wayne White was born in 1947 and taught in public
schools for nearly four decades, including 25 years in Springfield In the early 1990s, following the first
Public Schools. Here is a look at his life and career based on in- complaint in White’s school record, the top
formation prepared by his defense attorney as well as school, school police official in charge of investigat-
police and court records: ing complaints put in writing that he would
keep an “open file” on White in case there
Early life were other allegations.
But when later allegations surfaced,

SAVE
» 1965 — Graduates from Bloomfield High School, 220 miles east there was no indication others were aware
of Springfield this file existed. Nothing was added to it
» 1969 — Earns bachelor’s degree from Southwest Baptist Univer- over the years.
sity; obtains lifetime teaching certificate in health, physical educa- White’s school records compiled by po-
tion and speech and theater for grades 7-12 (since revoked) lice show complaints of inappropriate
» 1970-72 — Serves in U.S. Army, completing basic training at Fort touching or talking surfaced at three
Leonard Wood; is stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado schools.
» 1972-73 — Teaches physical education and health, Iberia High
School
One girl said White rubbed her leg near
her private area. There were allegations he
ON THE LARGEST
» 1973-78 — Serves as physical education and health teacher, head patted and grabbed girls on the bottom and
baseball coach and assistant men’s basketball coach, Southwest
Baptist University
rubbed a female student on the back, under
her shirt. He made comments about stu-
SELECTION OF
» 1975 — Earns master’s degree from University of Missouri dents’ breasts and rear ends, students said.
» 1978-84 — Coaches Little League baseball and Mighty Mites
football, Stillwater Parks and Recreation, Oklahoma
He was accused of rubbing up against a stu-
dent, spreading a girl’s legs apart and pull-
NEW CHEVYS!
» 1979-80 — Teaches middle school Sunday school class, University ing a student onto his lap by her hips and
Heights Baptist Church bouncing her up and down.

1980s
While White was not removed from the
classroom, his career trajectory is telling.
He started out in a coveted role, as a gym
OVER 200 NEW
» 1984-86 — Teaches physical education and health, serves as
assistant baseball coach, assistant men’s basketball coach, Hillcrest
teacher and head basketball coach at the
high school level. CHEVY SILVERADOS
High He garnered public attention as a win-
» 1984-88 — Coaches Little League baseball and Mighty Mites
football, Springfield-Greene County Park Board
ning coach at Parkview. In 1989, his team
made it to the state quarterfinal and won the AVAILABLE
» 1986-95 — Teaches physical education and drivers education, Ozark Conference championship; the team
serves as head men’s basketball coach, Parkview High
» 1987 — Awarded Certificate of Appreciation from Parkview
Class of 1987 for “constant care and loving concern for our fu-
tures”
was runner-up three other years. In 1991, his
team took second place in the Bass Pro Tour-
nament of Champions.
After leaving Parkview, he moved
2017 CHEVY
» 1988 — Obtains lifetime teaching certificate in driver education
(since revoked)
» 1989 — Directs high school Sunday school program, First Baptist
around, mostly between middle schools, and
was repeatedly assigned to supervise stu-
dents during in-school suspension.
SILVERADO 1500
Church

1990s
That job had less responsibility and less
prestige, but it gave him greater access to
students who were vulnerable — most were
CREW CAB
already in trouble and less likely to be be- 4WD LT
» Early 1990s — Sexually assaults a Parkview student, who reports lieved.
it to police in 2014; she says the assaults took place when she was Everett Isaacs, former principal of Cen-
“14 or 15,” and later tells police a coach walked in during one tral High, recently acknowledged there
incident were ongoing concerns with White’s behav-
» 1993 — Allegations of sexual harassment surface at Parkview; as ior but said they weren’t enough to build a
a result, the director of school police who conducts the investiga- case for termination.
tion decides to maintain “an open file should further reports of “We had things that were noticed, that
this nature occur” came up, and we tried to address but there
» 1995-96 — Supervises In-School Suspension, Carver Middle was just one complaint,” he said. “It was be-
(leaves in December 1996) haviors and talking and being somewhere
» 1996-97 — Teaches physical education, Pleasant View Middle you didn’t need to be.”
(starts in December 1996) Asked if he requested White be moved
» 1996-97 — Serves as head boys’ basketball coach, Republic High out of his building, Isaacs said he wouldn’t
School answer the question. “I will say we didn’t
» 1997-98 — Teaches physical education and speech at Carver have anything he was certified to teach. We
Middle didn’t have a place for him.”
» 1998-2005 — Teaches health, driver education at Central High White’s salary climbed over the years, no
matter what jobs he performed. He retired
2000s at $58,419, making him one of the higher-
paid teachers in the district at the time.
» Spring 2002 — Allegations surface at Central
» May 2002 — HR director and Central principal send a letter
“strongly advising” White to “have an absolute ‘hands off’ ap-
His former wife — with whom he still
lives — is now a professor emeritus of edu-
cation at Drury University. In the mid-1990s,
DISCOUNTS
proach with students” she was a critical part of an innovative part-
» 2005-10 — Supervises In-School Suspension, Pipkin Middle School
» 2007-08 — Serves as guardian on Ozarks Honor Flights
» 2007 — Allegations surface at Pipkin, prompting a hotline call to
the state’s Children’s Division
nership between Drury, Yale University and
center-city schools.
In that role, she worked with Pipkin and
Central, where White was employed the fi-
AS MUCH AS
$
12,500
» 2008 — Another allegation is made at Pipkin nal decade or so of his career.
Springfield school officials were tight-
2010s lipped about White following his arrest, ini-
tially refusing to even acknowledge the
» 2010 — Retires from Pipkin; according to the Missouri Depart- complaints that a judge forced the district to
ment of Elementary and Secondary Education, White’s career turn over to police.
includes a total of 38 years in public education, including 25 in Citing privacy laws, they have refused to
Springfield discuss the details of White’s personnel file,

OVER 500 NEW


» May 2011 — Volunteers on a search and cleanup crew, Joplin including how the investigations were han-
tornado dled at the time. They have pointed out that
» June 2011, 2012 — Serves as activity director, Drury University many, if not all, the school officials in charge
at the time are gone and that numerous pol-
Camp for Latina Girls
» 2012 — Serves as basketball official, Missouri State High School
Activities Association
icy changes have been made over the years.
“The conduct for which Ron White was
CHEVY CARS,
» 2013 — Inducted into Southwest Baptist University Hall of Fame
» February 2013 — Springfield school board adopts new policy
regarding reporting and investigating child abuse and neglect
convicted occurred between 1991 and 1993.
The district’s practices that were in place in
1991-1993 have changed,” said Lisa Turner,
TRUCKS, SUVS,
» October 2014 — A former Parkview student contacts Spring-
field Police Department with allegations of sexual assault from the
early 1990s
chief human resources officer. “The district
continues to review and revise its proce-
dures on an annual basis and insure (sic)
AND CROSSOVERS
» February 2015 — The former student contacts White, by phone,
and they discuss the alleged sexual assaults; White is not aware the
calls are recorded
that it maintains policies which meet or ex-
ceed the requirements of federal and state
law.”
NOW AVAILABLE!
» March 30, 2015 — Greene County Judge Calvin Holden signs The last allegation listed in White’s per-
investigative subpoena requesting “any and all” information sonnel file was in 2008, just nine years ago.
regarding White from the Springfield district, including personnel School officials have been more forth-
records, dates of employment, schools where he taught and coming about how allegations are currently
coached, disciplinary records, recordings pertaining to termination, handled. They say administrators now work
removal, transfer or separation from schools, complaints and in- with outside law enforcement agencies, re-
vestigations move employees from buildings during in-
» Aug. 3, 2015 — Springfield Police Department presents its vestigations, and get rid of employees if al-
felony case report to the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office legations are substantiated.
» Aug. 7, 2015 — White is charged with three counts of deviate Along with updated district policies,
sexual assault and a warrant is issued for his arrest; initial bond set state laws regarding the mandated report-
at $10,000 ing of suspected inappropriate behavior
» May 17, 2016 — White enters a guilty plea on the charge of have been strengthened since the first alle-
deviate sexual assault gations surfaced more than 30 years ago.
» April 26, 2016 — White’s wife, Linda Jayne White, files for That said, there is still no mechanism in
divorce; over the summer, she reconsiders and issues a notice of place to alert principals if a teacher with one
intent to dismiss the divorce request and then later files for legal or more complaints of a sexual nature ap-
separation plies for a job in a new school.
» Aug. 10, 2016 — Divorce granted; court documents indicate the The details, locked away in a confidential
former couple are still living together part of a personnel file, are only accessible
» Aug. 22, 2016 — At the sentencing hearing, prosecutor Nathan by the district’s personnel investigator.
Chapman references multiple reports of inappropriate behavior Patterson, the prosecutor, said his office
with students in White’s personnel file; White is sentenced to seven did not hesitate to file charges, despite the
years in the Missouri Department of Corrections but is granted a passage of time, after the former student
suspended imposition of sentence and placed in a 120-day Sexual came forward. Her allegations, never re-
Offender Assessment Unit program ported to school officials while she was en- 3655 S. Campbell
» Aug. 23, 2016 — White starts serving “shock” incarceration in rolled, were the most egregious that have
the Sexual Offender Assessment Unit program
» Sept. 20, 2016 — Springfield school board updates policy re-
come to light.
He said the other complaints, while less
Springfield, MO 65807
garding reporting and investigating child abuse claims to make
clear mandated reporters hotline “all suspected incidents of stu-
serious, ought to have raised red flags.
“It’s important that (White) be held ac- 417-887-5800
dent-on-student abuse as well as abuse perpetrated by someone countable,” Patterson said. “It’s important
with care, custody and control of the child”
» Dec. 12, 2016 — White is released from jail
for that victim to have justice for her and,
frankly, sort of representatively, for the oth-
800-725-5800
SL-0000422855

» Dec. 29, 2016 — White begins five-year probation under Mis-


souri Board of Probation and Parole
er young women who were at least groomed
or attempted to be groomed.”
www.reliablechevy.com
Tuesday | August 1, 2017 | news-leader.com | PART OF THE USA TODAY NETWORK
The News-Leader is celebrating its 150th anniversary. See historic pages and a historic masthead every Saturday.

Walkoff
single lifts
Orioles Girls accused
over Royals
Page
ONE Ronnie White of
wrongdoing for years

PHONE CALL
1D

CHANGED
HIGHLAND SPRINGS
“I did somethin’ go
– Ronnie White
ofy.”
, to victim
EVERYTHING
Sheriff “I had
“I was a straight A student and I had
everything going for me, and
ause this happened to me.”
yet I felt like my life was worthless bec
releases a weak
moment
– Student victimized by Ronnie Wh
ite
“There isn’t sufficient
identities and I
guess I
information to proceed
with; however, I will
“Thank God we di
of dead couldn’t
control
intercourse or an
dn’t have
y kind of sex,
maintain an open file
should further reports
couple myself.”
– Ronnie
you know, that’s…
only graced thing
that’s the
about it.”
of this nature occur.”
– Ronnie White – Dennis Lewis,
Robert O’Block and White, , to victim school police
Tiffany Fleming to victim investigator, in 1993
found Sunday night “Her accusation was that
I had rubbed against her
THOMAS GOUNLEY touched her improperly… … and had
I could not believe what I
TGOUNLEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM
and, of course denied the was hearing
accusation.”
The Greene County Sher- – Ronnie White, in 2002
iff’s Office released the identi- letter to Everett Isaacs,
Central HS principal
ties Monday morning of two
people found dead inside a
Highland Springs home. “Mr. Isaacs and I are strongly advising you to have you
Sheriff Jim Arnott said Rob- an absolute ‘hands-off’ approach with students.” “I guess would
ing?”
ert O’Block, 66, and his girl-
– Joan Cargnel, Director of Human Resource call it like a fl
friend, Tiffany Fleming, 27, s, ite,
were found in a 2002 letter to White – Ronnie Wh
dead Sunday to victim
night inside a
home in the
3800 block of
East Kingswood
Drive, in the
Highland
Robert Springs gated
O'Block subdivision.
Both had
gunshot wounds, Arnott said. STORIES BY GIACOMO BOLOGNA GBOLOGNA@NEWS-LEADER.COM
AND CLAUDETTE RILEY CRILEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM
The 4,800-square-foot home FILED AND ERIES
where the bodies were found FORGOTTEN S

T
was O’Block’s residence, Ar- he conversation is making the retired Springfield teacher
Last Sunday: m.
nott said. Fleming lived in Ro- “feel awkward.” acks in the syste
gersville, he said. Red flags and cr
“Why are you discussing things like this on the phone?”
ay:
Asked by reporters if it was Ronnie White asks. Coming Thursd
a murder-suicide, Arnott said w eigh in on polygraphs
His discomfort — reflected in a transcript of the phone Experts
ed at ors.
that is a possibility, but it is too and sexual pr
call recorded by police — is to be expected. The woman on the
early in the investigation to other stories
other end of the line is a former student, asking about things that Online: To see
make that determination. He th is series, go
happened behind closed doors more than 20 years ago. and videos in
said there was no sign of forced to Ne w s- Leader.
online
entry to the home, and that his “Thank God we didn’t have intercourse or any kind of sex, you nd
com/FiledA
know,” Ronnie White says. “That’s the only graced thing about it.” Forgotten
See DEATHS, Page 5A The transcript shows that throughout the phone calls — two of
them, lasting more than half an hour — the woman doesn’t give up.
She presses White, dredging up decades-old memories of sexu-
al abuse. Does he remember putting his genitals on her shoulder?
The touching? The kissing? Does he remember going to the “back
room” with her when she was 14 or 15?
“I guess I couldn’t control myself,” White tells her.
WHO KNEW WHAT,
White’s confessions, contained in those black and white tran-
scripts, eventually land the former educator in jail. But the calls
AND WHEN?
were not the only evidence police collected against him. One girl confided in a high school
When investigators started digging, they found White had been counselor. Another complained to a
accused of sexually harassing or inappropriately touching at least principal. A third handed a note to a
nine other female students from 1993 to 2008. social studies teacher.
Referenced during White’s 2016 sentencing, the complaints — From the early 1990s to the
sealed away in personnel files kept by the school district — were mid-2000s, at least a dozen Spring-
not made public until now. field school employees — and others
— were told, in various ways, that
Obtained by the News-Leader through an open records re- teacher Ronnie White was allegedly
quest, the documents show that, around the same time he was sex- touching and sexually harassing
Nuclear labs ually abusing the victim who later called him, White was allegedly
making several offensive, sexual statements to a different stu-
female students.
The Springfield school personnel
shipping danger dent. file for White, a former teacher and
coach, showed that others in the loop
Toxic chemicals like See WHITE, Page 4A included school police officers, hu-
plutonium improperly USA TODAY NETWORK ILLUSTRATION/GETTY IMAGES See TRAIL, Page 5A
labeled, mailed across US
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4A Tuesday, August 1, 2017 NEWS-LEADER § News-Leader.com

THE CASE OF
RONNIE WHITE
White
Continued from Page 1A

He allegedly asked a girl in


1993, “Why don’t we get out of
here and fog up my windows?”
Records also say he implied
he gave the girl a good grade be-
cause he liked her legs and
thought about unbuttoning her
dress.
School officials made that
girl take a polygraph — a re-
quest that would later become
illegal under a 2007 Missouri
law. The polygraph administra-
tor told school officials the girl
was lying.
That girl would later tell in-
vestigators she once observed a
different student sitting on
White’s lap while White spread
her legs apart in an inappropri-
ate manner.
School records show a fourth
Parkview student said White
told her she “had a nice rear
end” and said “look at that body
move.” She said she felt uncom-
fortable when White put his
hand under her shirt and
rubbed her back.
White was never punished
and left Parkview in 1995. He
spent a year at Carver Middle
School, then briefly worked at
Pleasant View Middle School NATHAN PAPES/NEWS-LEADER
before returning to Carver. Ronnie White worked for Springfield Public Schools from 1984 to 2010.
In 1999, White got another
shot at coaching varsity basket-
ball and went to Central High
School. It was there, three years
later, that he would face his
most serious accusation.
Concerns were shared,
doubted and dismissed
It began with a note.
One girl told another girl
about being touched inappro-
priately. That girl wrote it
down. She gave it to a teacher,
who passed it on to an assistant
principal who passed it on to the
principal.
The next day there was a
meeting in the principal’s of-
fice, according to court docu-
ments, during which three ad- SUBMITTED BY JAYNE WHITE
ministrators met with the girl Ronnie White
who wrote the note.
Assistant Principal Greg
Darnaby wrote down his recol- his fingers and put his penis in
lection of that meeting in a me- ANDREW JANSEN/NEWS-LEADER her mouth.
mo that was obtained by the Carver Middle School, where Ronnie White worked in the mid-1990s. Once on a snow day, White
News-Leader. came over to her house, she
According to Darnaby, the said, took her into the bathroom
administrators asked the girl turn for touching her. deliver four pizzas to his house Within two years, he was ac- and attempted to have sex with
why she wrote the note. The girl “popped her head reportedly ordered by a young cused of inappropriately touch- her. He left when he couldn’t get
The girl had enrolled at Cen- up” and denied that, Darnaby girl. ing four different students. Ac- an erection.
tral two months before and said wrote. Two witnesses backed up cording to a 2007 complaint, he Years later, White discussed
a new friend came up to her at The interview was over, Dar- parts of what White said — one grabbed a girl, held her by the that abuse with her on the taped
lunch, visibly upset. naby wrote, and he told the girl’s saying White didn’t inappropri- hips and put her on his lap. He phone call.
She asked what was wrong. mother that he had dealt with ately touch anyone in the cafe- allegedly patted another girl’s In the transcript, he refers to
According to Darnaby, the girl the girl before — and she hadn’t teria, and another saying White butt. He grabbed a third girl’s the abuse as a “fling,” and says
said her new friend told her that always been truthful. didn’t rub up against anyone in rear end, documents say, and things like “I just reacted that
“A teacher had been touching her When caught in a lie, the girl the gym. rubbed his leg against a fourth day to you” and “I did somethin’
... She did not like it but that she would embellish more, rather After Isaacs received girl, near her groin. goofy.”
would let it go on because (redact- than come clean, Darnaby said. White’s letter and spoke with The allegations surfaced af- White tells her she was a
ed) got ‘A’s’ in his class without He described the girl, after the administrators, he wrote a let- ter one of the girl’s mothers “perfect gal.”
having to do any work.” interview, as smiling broadly, ter to the director of human re- made a hotline call to the state’s She tells him the sexual
That teacher, Ronnie White, “almost laughing.” sources for the school district. Children’s Division. A Spring- abuse derailed her life.
had also been writing notes for Darnaby then followed up Isaacs said he spoke with the le- field police officer and a Chil- “I was a straight A student
her friend to get her out of class with the girl who wrote the note gal guardian of the girl who was dren’s Division worker investi- and I had everything going for
to see him, the girl said. that spurred the school’s inves- allegedly touched by White. gated the allegations. me,” she says, “and yet I felt like
The friend, who was visibly tigation. She told Darnaby new The guardian told him the According to a report filed my life was worthless because
upset as she explained this, details: that White “got hard” girl had a troubled past. by the officer, White denied the this happened to me.”
spilled her drink as they were when he rubbed up against her The girl had been “raped allegations and there was no They talk more, the tran-
finishing up lunch, the girl said, friend and asked her friend to three times in the last three corroborating evidence to sup- script shows, then White con-
and White came over to help and take off her pants for him. years,” Isaacs wrote, and in one port them. cludes the conversation, saying
touched her friend’s rear end. Darnaby told the girl not to instance was kidnapped and The mother had made 33 pri- “Good luck with it, baby.”
Pressed by administrators, tell anyone. raped repeatedly by her sister’s or calls to the Children’s Divi- Based largely on these phone
the girl said she wasn’t sure if it Springfield police were not boyfriend. Before that, the girl sion, the officer noted. call recordings, White was
was intentional or accidental. contacted. had allegedly been raped by her “It is believed that she made charged with deviate sexual as-
Later that day, Darnaby, a The next day, the alleged vic- mother’s boyfriend. the latest hotline against White sault in 2015. He pleaded guilty
school police officer and other tim wrote a statement. Why did Isaacs include this after becoming disgruntled and was sentenced in 2016.
administrators met with the “Ron was rubbing his body in a letter about White’s alleged with the Pipkin School offi- At the sentencing hearing,
friend and her mother. on me,” she wrote. “He told me misconduct? cials,” he wrote. the prosecuting attorney, Na-
Darnaby laid out the basics not to tell anyone what he was According to Isaacs, the The next year, a school police than Chapman, asked the judge
of the allegations to the people doing, because he could get into girl’s guardian told him that be- officer investigated a claim that to imagine White had commit-
in the room, then asked the girl trouble.” ing raped caused the girl to White sexually harassed anoth- ted deviate sexual assault today
to elaborate. Within a week, White wrote a overreact to all men, especially er girl, grabbing her by the leg — not more than two decades
The girl said White had been letter to Central’s principal, Ev- men in their 30s and 40s. and pulling her close to him prior.
“rubbing” on her, “touching my erett Isaacs. It was titled: “Ac- The guardian said the girl while he assisted with her class- “I can guarantee 100 percent,
butt and everything.” cusations of misconduct.” “misinterprets any physical work. White denied any wrong- if you ask citizens of this county
Despite repeated question- “I could not believe what I contact she has with male teach- doing and said he put his hands ... ‘Hey, what should happen to a
ing, the girl wouldn’t say much was hearing and, of course de- ers,” Isaacs wrote. on her shoulder and knee in a coach or a teacher who puts his
else. nied the accusation,” White said Isaacs signed the letter, at different incident. penis in the mouth of a 14-year-
According to Darnaby, “She about his initial meeting with the bottom of which was a sen- old?’ they are not going to say,
never looked at me while an- administrators. tence in italics: “ Together we After two decades, ‘Oh, well, did it happen a long
swering a question, but put her White told a different story can make a difference.“ a confession time ago? Is he otherwise a pret-
head down and mumbled her than his accuser. In a 2017 interview with the White retired two years lat- ty respectful guy? All right. I
answers.” It was the girl who came up News-Leader, Isaacs acknowl- er, in 2010, as one of the highest guess give him probation,’”
The girl said two days be- and “stood very close” to him in- edged there were ongoing con- paid teachers in Springfield Chapman said. “No way. There
fore, White brought his health side the gym, White wrote, and cerns with White’s behavior but Public Schools. is no way.”
class into the gym where he then she asked him for money. said they weren’t enough to None of the accusations White’s attorney, Dee Wam-
stood behind her, rubbing her At one point, White said, he build a case for termination. against him appear to have re- pler, called White “honest and
shoulders, then rubbing his reached up and squeezed her However, he did co-sign a let- sulted in any formal disciplin- forthcoming” and asked for
front side against her back. neck muscles and “told her ev- ter written by the district’s di- ary measures. “shock” time in the Greene
She said she went to his of- erything is alright and to settle rector of human resources, The allegations would have County Jail.
fice at one point. They were out- down.” Joan Cargnel, that warned remained closed records if one Judge Calvin Holden sen-
side the room, she said, but White also denied touching White to avoid physical contact victim had not come forward to tenced White to seven years in
White got her behind the door the girl’s butt at lunchtime. with students. police, prompting criminal prison.
and rubbed his front side “At no time did I touch any- “Mr. Isaacs and I are strong- charges. Then Holden suspended the
against her front side. body on the rear,” he wrote. ly advising you to have an abso- In 2015, she told police that sentence.
The girl said she tried to push A week and a half later, lute ‘hands-off’ approach with White was her gym teacher in White spent 120 days behind
away and told him to stop it. White wrote an updated letter to students,” Cargnel wrote. the early 1990s. Over the course bars in a sexual offender as-
“(Name redacted) had her Isaacs, the principal. White does not appear to of two years, when she was sessment unit and has since
head down, almost between her According to White, a girl have followed that advice. about 14 to 15 years old, White been released on probation.
legs,” Darnaby wrote. called his home at 10:02 p.m. on In 2005, White moved on to coerced her about once a week When Holden asked White if
Darnaby asked her if she told a Friday night, called his wife a his final assignment in Spring- into letting him perform sexual he had anything to say, White
them everything, and men- “few choice names” and then field schools, as the in-school acts on her. said eight words: “I’m very
tioned the good grades White hung up. Half an hour after that, suspension teacher for Pipkin On several occasions, she apologetic about what has taken
was allegedly giving her in re- White wrote, Pizza Hut tried to Middle School. said, White penetrated her with place.”
NEWS-LEADER § News-Leader.com Tuesday, August 1, 2017 5A

THE CASE OF
RONNIE WHITE
But he said he learned during
Trail the inquiry of a previous allega-
tion against White, which
Continued from Page 1A prompted him, along with Carg-
nel, to write a letter “strongly
advising” White to have “an ab-
man resources officials, assis- solute ‘hands-off’ approach to
tant principals and at least one students” to guard against any
assistant superintendent. future incidents.
Numerous school employees “I wanted it in writing that he
told the News-Leader that if was not to have any physical
they had known about other al- contact with students,” Isaacs
legations against White, they said. “We were not going to
may have reacted differently mess around. We were going to
when they were told about what deal with it straight up.”
they thought were isolated inci- Isaacs said he kept a close
dents. watch on White after the allega-
Most of the complaints in- tion and, even though only one
volved sexually suggestive girl came forward, there were
comments or touching that ongoing concerns about White’s
made students uncomfortable. behavior.
But at least one employee alleg- “We had things that were no-
edly witnessed White engaged NEWS-LEADER FILE PHOTO ticed that came up and we tried
in sexual contact with a Park- Pipkin Middle School, where Ronnie White worked during the final years of his career. to address but just one com-
view High student whose accu- plaint” he said.
sations eventually led to White’s He said during the investiga-
prosecution. pal of Parkview. She was a coun- was either “substantiated” or ical education there but that’s tion, he required White to spend
That employee, Robert selor at Parkview from 1977 to “unfounded.” not what former principal Kel- his planning period sitting in the
Crawford, was White’s assistant 1996. Lewis described an unsub- vin Pamperien recalled. main office.
coach for nine years in the late There is no sign in the per- stantiated finding “as more he Pamperien said that when he Isaacs said he used all the re-
1980s and early sonnel record that what Craw- said, she said.” He said there started at Carver in mid-1996, sources available to him at the
1990s. ford allegedly saw triggered an were only “a handful” of those White was supervising the in- time, but there was not enough
The former investigation. during his career. school suspen- evidence to fire White. “You can
student, now in The counselor did recall ac- In a report following the in- sion, or ISS, pro- see from that that I was really
her 40s, told po- companying a different girl to vestigation, Lewis said there gram. “I don’t re- trying to cover the bases and
lice Crawford take a polygraph test after that “wasn’t sufficient information member hiring get district folks involved.”
walked into the girl accused White of sexually to proceed” and noted he Ron White. What I He added: “When it comes to
room as White harassing her in the early 1990s. planned to “maintain an open remember is he something like that, when it
Robert performed oral Details of that incident, and the file should further reports of was already as- comes to kids, you can’t be too
Crawford sex on her at the investigation that followed, this nature occur.” signed at Carver.” careful.”
high school, ac- were included in “Anytime we had something Kelvin Asked if Pam- White left Central in 2005,
cording to investigative reports White’s person- unsubstantiated, it stayed pret- Pamperien perien was made moving to nearby Pipkin.
obtained by the News-Leader. nel file. ty much open,” he said. aware of prior al- Sharri Harwick was princi-
Police contacted Crawford Kohr, who Lewis said anonymous alle- legations against White, he said pal when White moved to Pip-
during their recent investiga- was principal at gations were the toughest to in- “no.” Asked if that was informa- kin. Tim Zeigler, who was an as-
tion. He initially said he did not the time, told the vestigate and, over his long ca- tion he would have wanted to sistant principal under Har-
remember anything inappro- News-Leader reer, he helped catch teachers have as a principal, he said “yes.” wick, was principal when White
priate involving White, but was that he was not who clearly crossed the line and Pamperien, who worked with retired. Neither
more forthcoming as investiga- Michael Kohr aware of any clear others who were falsely White for one year, did not re- recalled playing
tors became more specific in complaints accused. call any problems with White. a role in his hir-
their questioning. against White until about two “It wasn’t uncommon that “What I remember is he was my ing.
Crawford told police one day decades later when police ques- they make it up,” he said of stu- ISS teacher.” “I knew he
before practice he was looking tioned him about White and he dents. “They generally had an In 1998, two years after leav- was placed there
for White and went to an office read about White’s case in the ax to grind with the teacher.” ing Parkview, White was hired but I didn’t know
where the boys basketball newspaper. In the early 2000s, when as the boys basketball coach at why,” Zeigler
coach sometimes watched film. “I was in complete shock Lewis was still in charge of Central High. Sharri said.
According to police records, when I heard about it,” he said. school police, allegations Edsel Matthews, the athletic Harwick Reached by
Crawford said he opened the “How in the hell did that hap- against White resurfaced, this director at the time, described phone at her
door and saw the lights were pen?” time at Central. His officers White as a “proven winner and home near Kansas City, Har-
off, “tape” was playing, and Kohr recalled hiring and fir- were involved in the investiga- tremendous competitor.” wick, the former Pipkin princi-
White and the girl were grab- ing White, describing him as a tion and the allegations were Everett Isaacs, who was pal, said she didn’t recall hiring
bing at each other’s pants. “friendly, happy person.” He deemed unfounded. named the Central principal in White either.
Crawford said it looked like said White was fired because it The “open file” and previous 1998, didn’t recall playing a role “I couldn’t remember look-
someone was trying to quickly was “time to switch basketball allegations were not referenced in hiring White. ing at his file. I didn’t,” she said.
get pants back on and Crawford coaches.” in the paperwork. Asked why, “I was just told “I was called by phone, because
knew it “wasn’t right.” He said things would have Lewis said he doesn’t remember he was going to I had an opening, and they said
He turned and left and White been different if he was made being part of that investigation Central.” they had a teacher they needed
followed him out soon after, the aware there were allegations even though his signature is on Isaacs said he a place for. There was no indica-
documents say. against the longtime coach. at least one witness statement. was never told tion I was being used and no ex-
In a recorded phone call with “The administration never “I sleep with a clean con- there was an planation.”
the former student — a corner- turned its head on such issues,” science. I can’t speak for any- “open file” on Harwick said White super-
stone of the investigation — Kohr said. “I would have taken one else who dealt with him but Everett Isaacs White and was vised students serving in-
White recalled Crawford walk- care of the issue.” people know me. If I’d have not initially in- school suspension. “He was put
ing in on them. The 1993 investigation in found anything that was suppor- formed of prior allegations. there by the district office. Ev-
“Up until then it was like which a student was poly- tive of those allegations, it “I knew nothing when he ery now and then, I would get
hush-hush ... nobody knew,” graphed was overseen by Den- would have been in my reports,” came to Central,” he said. someone sent to me.”
White said in the call, which was nis Lewis, then the director of he said. “My investigations “When we had our issue come She said no one gave her a
recorded by police. school police. Kohr said he’s were always complete.” up, we were unaware.” heads-up about allegations at
According to White, Craw- “perplexed” that But Lewis said he wasn’t al- In the early 2000s, a Central Parkview and Central, even af-
ford later told him: “Just let it Lewis never in- ways in charge. The former po- student alleged White “rubbed ter students complained about
go, Ron” and “I didn’t see a formed him lice officer, who worked for the up against” her in gym class White at Pipkin.
thing.” about allegations district from 1990 to 2006, said and, on a separate occasion, “You don’t always get told.
On the recorded call, the for- against White. for the first decade personnel rubbed his body against hers, You have to do the best you can
mer student said she trusted Kohr said he investigations were his pur- touched her butt with his hand with the information you have,”
and looked up to Crawford but thought he would view. But shortly after Jack and told her not to tell anyone said Harwick, who now lives in
after that incident, he would not have been told if Ernst was named superinten- what he was doing because he the Kansas City area. “I’d shoot
talk to her. Dennis Lewis there were alle- dent, the oversight was moved could “get into trouble.” straight but not everybody will
“He never said a word ... like gations an em- to the district’s human re- White admitted “bumping” do that.”
it was my fault,” she said. ployee at his school had been sources department. into the girl but nothing else. In In 2008, a girl serving ISS al-
The News-Leader attempted touching a student inappropri- Lewis said staffers confis- a response to the allegation, he leged White sexually harassed
to contact Crawford by phone ately. cated all of his files and moved claimed the girl asked him for her by grabbing her leg to pull
and letter. A reporter went to an “Maybe there’s some others I them to the Kraft Administra- money and was upset because her toward him and then moved
address listed as Crawford’s was not made aware of,” he said. tive Center. he wouldn’t change her class close to her, touching his leg
home, and a woman answered Lewis spent 13 years with the Lewis said he was occasion- schedule. against her leg.
the door. When the reporter Springfield Police Department ally called on to help with inter- Isaacs notified Joan Cargnel, After the investigation con-
mentioned Ronnie White, the before he was hired to lead the views and knew the role he director of human resources, in cluded the incident did not rise
woman said “We’re not interest- school police force and was in played but not what other parts writing that the girl who came to a criminal level, Harwick
ed,” and closed the door. charge of the district’s person- of the investigation were turn- forward may have “embel- cautioned White to stay a re-
Crawford told police that at nel investigations for a decade. ing up. “I had my files but I lished” the allegations. He not- spectful distance and told the
the time of the incident, he “I went into them totally wouldn’t have their files. I ed she was the victim of an al- student to come to her if any
didn’t want to be “dragged in” to open-eyed,” he said. “I let the wouldn’t know what they did.” leged rape and that her attacker other incidents made her feel
something, so he wrote down facts take me where they took The principals at the final was awaiting trial at the time. uncomfortable.
what he saw in a note and gave it me.” three schools where White He said family members told Harwick said if she had
to a school counselor, Janet He recalled the 1993 allega- worked, prior to retiring in him that the girl “overreacts to known about the other allega-
Strange. tions against White and noted 2010, said they were not told all men, especially older men.” tions, it would have “colored
Strange told the News-Lead- the investigation resulted in a about prior allegations. In a recent interview with how I look at what they said.”
er she never received a note rare finding of “unsubstantiat- After Parkview, White the News-Leader, Isaacs said She also would have kept an
from Crawford. She said if she ed.” He said when there was moved to Carver Middle School. the girl’s “troubled” back- eye on him. “What I would have
had, she would have passed it to clear and compelling evidence, White wrote in his resume that ground made the investigation done is talk to him and tell him
Michael Kohr, then the princi- one way or the other, the finding he taught journalism and phys- more difficult. to watch it.”

about the case is asked to call BRIEF


Deaths the sheriff’s office at 417-868-
4040. Cityreach Church of
Continued from Page 1A The Sheriff’s Office said Springfield hosts free
deputies responded to Narcan training
O’Block’s home several times
office was not “searching for for “domestic disturbances, Cityreach Church of Spring-
any additional suspects.” alarm calls and Order of Pro- field will host a free Narcan train-
Arnott said his office re- tection violations.” None of ing session on Aug. 9, from 6:30-8
ceived multiple calls Sunday those incidents involved Flem- p.m., at 1477 N. Broadway Ave.
evening regarding gunshots ing. The training will cover risk
being fired in the area. Callers O’Block founded Manage- factors for an overdose and pre-
gave multiple addresses of the ment Executives Inc. in 2004, vention tips such as how to identi-
disturbance, he said. Deputies according to his personal web- fy the OD, rescue response and
were dispatched shortly be- site. He has led that company Narcan kits will be available. The
fore 10 p.m., and ultimately ze- and related organizations, in- training is provided through a
roed in on O’Block’s home and cluding the Center for Nation- partnership with CityReach, the
discovered the bodies. al Threat Assessment, all of Missouri Recovery Network and
Arnott said Monday that de- certification processes for Better Life in Recovery. The class
tectives were interviewing a professionals in fields such as will be taught by David Stoecker.
witness who was with the cou- homeland security, forensics, THOMAS GOUNLEY/NEWS-LEADER Call 417-631-9082 for more in-
ple earlier Sunday night. Any- psychotherapy, and integra- The sheriff's office says it is conducting a death investigation at this formation or visit
one else with information tive medicine. home in the Highland Springs subdivision. www.cityreachnetwork.org
Thursday | August 3, 2017 | news-leader.com | PART OF THE USA TODAY NETWORK
The News-Leader is celebrating its 150th anniversary. See historic pages and a historic masthead every Saturday.

‘It was a
pretty cool
sight’
Springfield pilot’s
POLYGRAPH
eclipse flight: ‘The sky
turns this dark purplish
blue’ | Page 1C Springfield
MACHINES
schools used
the machines
on students
USED FOR
and teachers

ters,
DECADES
“Sexual moles
rs are
sexual predato
t skilled
about the mos
n
criminal you ca
ey ’re kind
imagine ... Th
eons.”
of like chamel
ls,
CONGRESS – Leslie Nicho
pe rt
child safety ex

AG TAKES
STEP TO
CHALLENGE
MCCASKILL
Josh Hawley will
form exploratory
committee
SUMMER BALLENTINE
ASSOCIATED PRESS

JEFFERSON CITY - Mis-


souri Attorney General Josh
Hawley will take the first step
toward challenging incumbent
Sen. Claire McCaskill later this
week, his spokesman said on
Wednesday, potentially setting
up a marquee 2018 race be-
tween a savvy
Democratic vet-
eran and a polit-
ical newcomer
touted as a ris- STORIES BY GIACOMO BOLOGNA GBOLOGNA@NEWS-LEADER.COM
ing star in the AND CLAUDETTE RILEY CRILEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM FILED AND
Republican par- FORGOTTEN SERI
ES

W
ty. hen teachers were accused of fondling or sexual harass- Last Sunday:
Josh Hawley Spokesman ing students, Springfield school officials at times used Red flags and cra
cks in the system.
Scott Paradise an unusual, and troubling, tool to investigate — they had Tuesday:
said Hawley, 37, will launch an them take a polygraph test. Ronnie White’s co
exploratory committee this But it wasn't just teachers who were being hooked up nfession,
and what others kn
week as part of his “process to to the machine. ew.
consider becoming a candi- The district used it on students, too. Coming Sunday
:
date.” An exploratory commit- A News-Leader investigation found Springfield Public Schools What stops this fro
m
tee will allow Hawley to start regularly used polygraph exams in the late 1980s, the 1990s and happening again
?
raising money without official- possibly into the early 2000s — often to investigate accusations that
ly entering the race. a teacher was engaged in inappropriate activity with a student.
McCaskill and Missouri Often misleadingly referred to as "lie detector tests," poly-
Democrats wasted little time graphs are a staple of television crime shows. But two polygraph other stories
criticizing Hawley, who was experts told the News-Leader they had never before heard of a Online: To see
is series, go
elected to his current post in school district using the machine. They also said testing kids and and videos in th
to Ne w s-Leader.
victims is likely to yield inaccurate results. online
2016. The Missouri Democratic Fo rgotten
Party late last month launched Since 2007, Missouri law has prohibited law enforcement and com/FiledAnd
a digital ad suggesting he’s us- government officials from asking or requiring victims of sexual
ing his election to attorney gen- offenses to submit to polygraph tests before proceeding with an INSIDE
mily part of
eral as a stepping stone to high- investigation. White’s own fa
ral damage’,
er office, and on Wednesday It's not immediately clear how many school officials knew of ‘collate
sent out a copy of a tweet he the practice. Page 4A
sent during his campaign last A school spokeswoman said she believed the district had aban-
year that slammed the state doned polygraph testing more than 20 years ago. But the former
capital as being “full of insid- director of school security, Dennis Lewis, told the News-Leader
ers just climbing the political USA TODAY NETWORK ILLUSTRATION/
ladder.” See WHITE, Page 4A GETTY IMAGES
“Josh Hawley must want to
set some kind of record — just
a few months after promising
Missourians he wouldn’t be a
ladder-climbing politician, he
decides he’d rather run for the
PREDATORS FOLLOW PATTERNS, EXPERT SAYS
next office than do the job he An expert in child safety said based expert in developing child people often have trouble under-
was elected to do,” McCaskill people may find it surprising that a protection programs. standing how a respected teacher
campaign manager David Kir- former Springfield teacher — and “It’s very hard for the average and coach — like White — could
by said in a statement. now convicted sex criminal — adult to get their head around the sexually abuse a student.
Before becoming attorney taught for 25 years despite numer- fact that there’s a segment of soci- That’s the first problem, Nich-
general, Hawley worked as an ous accusations of touching and ety that likes to have sex with chil- ols said. The second is that people
associate professor at the Uni- sexual harassment. dren,” said Nichols, who served don’t want to learn the “patterns of
versity of Missouri School of But cases like Ronnie White’s for more than two decades as the exploiting children.”
Law and was part of a team of are common, in part because youth safety and facility expert He said often there is no
about 15 lawyers in a U.S. Su- they’re hard for others to imagine, for Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
preme Court case in which said Leslie Nichols, an Atlanta- He told the News-Leader that See PREDATORS, Page 5A
Hobby Lobby and other busi-
nesses challenged a federal

See SENATE, Page 5A

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4A Thursday, August 3, 2017 NEWS-LEADER § News-Leader.com

THE CASE OF
RONNIE WHITE

White’s own family part of ‘collateral damage’


Spouse says ‘I didn’t know anything until the news knew’ During the call, the woman
mentioned being approached
by Jayne White around the
CLAUDETTE RILEY University, end- hired by Drury in 1984. same time as the abuse.
CRILEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM ed the marriage She rose to prominence at On the call, the victim, now in
AND GIACOMO BOLOGNA shortly after her the private, liberal arts campus her 40s, said Jayne White asked
GBOLOGNA@NEWS-LEADER.COM husband pleaded in Springfield. She started a her: “What are you doing with
guilty to deviate summer camp for Latina girls, my husband?”
After Ronnie White was sexual assault of co-authored a book on math and Jayne White denied saying
charged with sexually assault- a former student science education and was re- that.
ing a teenage student, some of Jayne White at Parkview garded as an expert on child is- “Again, I didn’t know her. I
the most passionate court argu- High School. sues and school reform. couldn’t have had a conversa-
ments concerned how the for- They continue to live under In 1996, she took sabbatical tion,” Jayne White said. “I
mer Springfield teacher and the same roof, sharing in the leave from Drury to serve as a wouldn’t know her if she
coach should be punished. care of an adult child with visiting faculty fellow at Yale stepped up to my front door.”
Much of the discussion con- health problems. University’s Child Study Cen- SUBMITTED She said the criminal case
cerned other victims. In interviews with the News- ter. She used the knowledge Photo of Jayne and Ronnie White in against her husband has been
At a sentencing hearing in Leader, Jayne White said she gained there to play a pivotal the photocopied sentencing report devastating but she agreed to
2016, prosecutor Nathan Chap- was unaware her then-husband role in developing a collabora- provided by attorney Dee Wampler. help him, soliciting “good char-
man noted that White had been sexually abused the Parkview tive partnership between Dru- acter” letters from friends and
accused over the years of touch- student in the early 1990s or that ry, Yale and several Springfield former colleagues before his
ing and making sexual com- other female students accused center city schools — Berry, activity director at the Drury sentencing.
ments to at least nine other him of inappropriate comments Boyd, Central and Pipkin. University Camp for Latina One letter was from John
girls. and touching. Ronnie White spent the final Girls she organized. Moore, the former president of
White’s defense attorney, “I didn’t know anything until decade or so of his career work- Jayne White told the News- Drury and Jayne White’s for-
Dee Wampler, was dismissive the news knew,” she told the ing across the street from his Leader that none of the adults — mer boss. He wrote, among oth-
of those reports, saying they News-Leader in one of many wife, in schools where their including her then-husband — er things, that he hoped the
had no relevance to the case. In- conversations in recent months. paths might cross. He was at were allowed to be alone with a “court will consider his case fa-
stead, he pointed to others dam- “I didn’t know anything.” Central from 1998 to 2005 and at child at the camp. A spokesman vorably.” Attempts to reach
aged by White’s actions. She has never been accused Pipkin from 2005 to until his re- for the university concurred, Moore directly and through
“The collateral damage here of any wrongdoing. tirement in 2010. saying Ronnie White primarily Drury were not successful.
in his own family has been so In Springfield and else- He worked at a total of six ran errands for the camp. “I have seen Ron interacting
permanent,” Wampler said, not- where, Jayne White spent more schools in Springfield and “He was just great with the with students, his wife and oth-
ing that White’s wife — whose than four decades working di- coached one year in Republic. kids,” Jayne White said. er adults and was impressed by
own career in education had rectly with children or training Asked why her husband moved In a 2015 phone call between his gracious and supportive
been far more prominent than the teachers who educate them. between multiple schools, Ronnie White and the former manner,” Moore wrote. “I al-
her husband’s — had filed for After a stint at the K-12 level, Jayne White said: “That’s just student that was recorded by ways found Ron to be persona-
and been granted a divorce. she worked at Oklahoma State what coaches do.” police, the former coach admit- ble and considered him to be an
Jayne White, professor University and Southwest Bap- In the summer of 2011 and ted to sexually abusing the honest, reliable person and a
emeritus of education at Drury tist University before she was 2012, Ronnie White served as woman when she was a teen. good family man.”

White
Continued from Page 1A

that “lie detector” tests were al-


ready being used as a fact-find-
ing tool in personnel investiga-
tions when he was hired, in De-
cember 1990.
Lewis, who retired in late
2006, said the practice con-
tinued the decade he was in
charge of look-
ing into com-
plaints involving
teachers and
staff. He said in
the early 2000s,
when human re-
sources took
Dennis Lewis over the investi-
gations, a staffer
from that department would oc-
casionally call asking for the
number of the polygraph exam-
iner.
“We used a polygraph on a
fairly regular basis,” he told the
News-Leader. “When I was do-
ing the investigations, I would
do them very regularly — not
every week, but three to four
times a year.”
Court records obtained by
the News-Leader describe a
1993 polygraph test of a female
student at Parkview High
School who reported a teacher, GUILLERMO HERNANDEZ MARTINEZ/NEWS-LEADER
Ronnie White, was sexually ha- John Harvill owned and operated a polygraph test company, through which he administered several tests for Springfield Public Schools in the ’80s and
rassing her. ’90s, mostly on teachers in connection with sexual misconduct cases. He posed for a portrait at his residence in Springfield on March 14.
The student had her blood
pressure, pulse rate and sweat
glands hooked up to the ma- dent had ever un- some students.
chine. dergone a poly- He stressed that polygraph
The girl said White told her, graph test. tests take time to properly set
"Why don't we get out of here Kohr said it up, that he would never test
and fog up my windows?" and was his under- someone who didn't appear to
that he gave her a good grade standing that any be a good candidate, and that he
because of her legs and the time there was wouldn't test anyone younger
thought of unbuttoning her Michael Kohr an investigation than 14.
dress. of a Parkview Harvill said he has difficulty
Lewis, the district’s security teacher, Lewis would tell him remembering the polygraphs
director, said the district did not about it. he did for Springfield Public
use the exam on “anonymous "He never said anything to Schools. He said he didn’t re-
complaints.” He said in investi- me about a polygraph test," member the allegations against
gations in which a high school Kohr said. Ronnie White in 1993.
student came forward, the ex- Charles R. Honts, a profes- Court records detail the test
am would typically be offered sor at Boise State University administered to White's accus-
to both the student and the em- and polygraph expert, said he er.
ployee. has never heard of a polygraph Hooked up to the polygraph
“We’d always polygraph the machine being used by a school ANDREW JANSEN/NEWS-LEADER machine, the girl affirmed the
same questions,” he said. district. Documents in the Ronnie White case. statements she'd made when
He said there were rare situ- Honts said it's concerning questioned earlier.
ations the exams were used on that potential victims of sexual Records show the polygraph
middle school students but nev- abuse could have been given to victims. Lewis said. “I always chose the administrator determined the
er elementary. polygraph tests. Not only could it re-trauma- questions. John would always girl was lying.
Lewis said the exam was vol- “You shouldn’t test the vic- tize a person, he said, but it's say ‘What are the facts you need White was never disciplined
untary but he’d encourage em- tim unless there’s some compel- very easy for a victim to have a to know here?’” and continued to teach in
ployees who were “maintaining ling reason to do so,” Honts said. strong emotional reaction and The News-Leader requested Springfield schools for 17 more
their innocence” to take it. “It’s kind of a last resort to test a appear to be lying. any records of receipts from years, retiring in 2010. He
“If they refused to take a victim.” “Testing victims of sexual the school district to Harvill's would be accused of touching or
polygraph, they almost always Honts also said the accuracy abuse is not a good idea ... and business, but the custodian of sexually harassing at least nine
followed it with ‘But, I think it’s of polygraph tests can decline some people would say it’s not records said the district doesn't other girls during his career. In
time to resign,’” he said. when the person tested is 16 or an ethical thing to do,” Nelson keep receipts that far back. 2015, White pleaded guilty to
There is no indication in the younger. said. “It’s kind of like a formula Harvill, now in his 80s, spoke sexually assaulting a different
criminal and personnel files “(Age) 14, 15 is pushing it," for a false positive.” with the News-Leader. Parkview student.
obtained by the News-Leader Honts said. "There’s very little Lewis, the director of school Harvill estimated that in the During the recent criminal
that White ever submitted to a research on kids that age.” security, said a local polygraph 1980s and 1990s he conducted 20 investigation into that case, po-
test. Raymond Nelson, a psycho- administrator named John Har- polygraph tests for the school lice contacted the former stu-
It's unclear who at Spring- therapist and former president vill was the only person he hired district, a tiny fraction of the dent who had been adminis-
field Public Schools was aware of the American Polygraph As- to do tests for Springfield Pub- thousands of polygraphs he con- tered the polygraph. Now a
of the polygraph tests. Michael sociation, echoed Honts. lic Schools. ducted over his long career. woman, she said she stood by
Kohr, principal when the girl While this wasn't clear in the “He was damn good … I don’t Most of the polygraph tests what she said about White's of-
who accused White was poly- 1980s, Nelson said these days think John ever ran a polygraph he did were on teachers accused fensive and sexually suggestive
graphed in 1993, said he was un- it's much clearer that polygraph for me that wasn’t consistent of fondling students, he said, remarks more than two decades
aware that any Parkview stu- tests shouldn't be administered with what we were finding,” though he did recall testing ago.
NEWS-LEADER § News-Leader.com Thursday, August 3, 2017 5A

20-foot pet python found alive near


owner’s home 2 months after escape
ALISSA ZHU
DZHU@NEWS-LEADER.COM

About two months after it es-


caped from its cage, a 20-foot pet
Burmese python was found alive JIM SALTER, AP
about 100 feet away from its Attorney General Josh Hawley
owner’s house near Rogersville. speaks at a news conference in
Owner Ben Trexel said he St. Louis in June. The
was out grocery shopping Sun- 37-year-old first-time
day night when he got a call officeholder is considered a
from his sister and brother-in- rising star in the Republican
law. Party.
“At first I didn’t believe they
found him. I was in denial. I
thought he was already dead
after more than two months,”
Trexel said.
Senate
Trexel said his sister and Continued from Page 1A
brother-in-law were walking
their dog down the street when
the dog started pulling on its requirement to provide in-
leash — hard. surance coverage for con-
The dog dragged the couple traceptives for employees.
toward a ditch by the side of SUBMITTED PHOTOS Vice President Mike
the road, Trexel said, and when Treasa Trexel poses with her son's Burmese python. Pence earlier in July called
they looked closely into the tall Hawley about the race, and
grass, they saw a brown and former Missouri Sen. John
tan tail — the same color as was gone. Danforth and prominent do-
Trexel’s missing python. Sometime in the night or nor David Humphreys are
Trexel said after he heard early morning, a tree branch among several high-profile
the news, he immediately had fallen through the roof of Republicans who in April re-
placed his grocery items back an enclosed porch, where Trex- leased a public letter en-
on the shelf and rushed to meet el keeps the cage, allowing the couraging Hawley. Big Mis-
his sister and brother-in-law. python to escape. souri donor Sam Fox sent a
In his hurry Trexel said he Trexel organized search June letter that asked other
did not stop by his house for a Ben parties. He canvassed the GOP donors not to give to
pillowcase to put over the Trexel neighborhood with a thermal other candidates while Haw-
snake’s head. holds his imaging camera. He set up ley decided whether to run.
So, he simply reached into pet game cameras to monitor the Republicans see Hawley
the tall grass and grabbed the Burmese grounds at night. as a strong candidate
snake by its tail. python. The Christian County Sher- against McCaskill, 64, who is
“I realized it was him, he iff’s Office chimed in about the among 10 Senate Democrats
realized it was me and just put missing python on its Facebook running in states won by
him around my shoulders and ty happy.” up, but when they do, they’re page in May, cautioning people President Donald Trump.
walked down the road. A part Mike Crocker, zoo director never a long ways away,” not to let their children venture While McCaskill is vulnera-
of him dragged on the ground,” and resident snake expert at Crocker said. into high grass or densely ble, she’s also a skilled cam-
Trexel said. the Dickerson Park Zoo, told The python — named SS wooded areas alone. paigner and is positioning
The python appears to be in the News-Leader he’s not sur- Wraps — has been Trexel’s pet Captain Jeff Lofton with the herself as a moderate in a
good physical condition, Trexel prised the python was found for about nine years. Christian County Sheriff’s Of- state that has trended to-
said. near where it got loose. “SS” stands for Super fice previously told the News- ward the Republicans in re-
“Something nipped on his “Some wild snakes, in areas Snake, Trexel said. It also re- Leader that emergency dis- cent years.
tail a little bit,” Trexel said. “It like Missouri, when they come fers to a double s-shaped de- patch had received several Paradise in a statement
looks like he just shed. He looks out of hibernation they’ll range sign on the snake’s back. phone calls from parents wor- added that Hawley’s state
healthy — he put on some pretty far out, hunting for “Wraps” because the snake is ried about the python. campaign committee “has
weight.” food,” Crocker said. “That’s very long. Trexel told the News-Leader ceased expenditures and the
Trexel said none of his different from a snake escap- Prior to Sunday, the last Wednesday that he has ordered soliciting or accepting of do-
neighbors have mentioned ing from somebody’s care.” time Trexel saw SS Wraps was steel and Plexiglas to fix and nations while he considers
anything — such as other pets In his experience, Crocker a Thursday evening in May, be- reinforce the python’s cage. becoming a federal candi-
— that has gone missing. said, snakes that escape from fore heavy storms hit the “I want to make it more stur- date.” Hawley can’t use
“Everybody will be glad to an owner or from a zoo don’t Ozarks. It was curled up in a dy this time to make sure some- money raised through that
know that he’s still not out usually go very far. ball in the corner of its cage. thing like this doesn’t happen state committee for a feder-
there,” Trexel said. “I was pret- “Sometimes they never turn By the next day, the python again,” Trexel said. al race.

THE CASE OF
RONNIE WHITE
Predators
Continued from Page 1A

mechanism, intervention tool


or person in place that would be
able to identify a pattern and
stop someone who’s abusing
children.
“There’s nobody keeping
track and connecting the dots,”
Nichols said. Adding to that,
“Sexual molesters, sexual pred-
ators are about the most skilled
criminal you can imagine ...
They’re kind of like chame- SUBMITTED PHOTO
leons.” Ronnie White during his coaching
White, who pleaded guilty to years in Springfield Public Schools
sexually abusing a teen girl, ap-
pears to have projected a far
more wholesome image. Some of the actions de-
Two people who knew White scribed by Nichols mirror ac-
at the time he was sexually tions White took, according to
abusing the Parkview student the woman White sexually
spoke to the News-Leader, abused at Parkview. She said as
painting a much different pic- ANDREW JANSEN/NEWS-LEADER
a 14 and 15-year-old girl she ini-
ture of White than what is con- Parkview High School, where teacher Ronnie White, who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a teen girl, worked. tially viewed White as a “men-
tained in police documents. tor.”
Stephanie Mercier and The woman told investiga-
Cathy Rippee both knew White time and never once, never once trouble believing it. duces the child’s resistance to tors the abuse began when
when they were students at did I see anything or feel that “I think that not only was Ron being touched, building toward White first began kissing her,
Parkview and wrote letters on Ron was doing anything inap- dedicated to the school system, sexual abuse, he said. then moved onto fondling her.
White’s behalf for his sentenc- propriately,” she said. “I was but he went over and beyond According to Nichols, the ul- Each time he progressed with
ing hearing. like a daughter to them.” what he would and could do for timate goal is to convince the “worse acts,” she said, until he
Both said they had positive Rippee said that at the time his students,” Rippee said. “He child to never rat on the molest- was digitally penetrating her,
relationships with White and White was sexually abusing the was like a second dad to these er — either to protect the mo- putting his penis in her mouth
never suspected he had sexual- Parkview student, she would people. They had get-togethers, lester or because the molester and attempting to have sex with
ly abused another student. They have been about the same age as they barbecued for these people is blackmailing the child. her.
also said they were not aware that girl. ... I still support Ron. I still sup- Greene County Prosecutor Nichols said some research-
there were other accusations “When all this came about I port the whole family.” Dan Patterson said sex offend- ers have found that between 5.5
made against him. was just flabbergasted,” Rippee Nichols, the child safety ex- ers “put themselves in a posi- percent and 6 percent of Amer-
Mercier was a cheerleader said. pert, explained that child abus- tion to have access to the vic- ican adults have a sexual inter-
and traveled with the basketball Rippee said many of the ers “plan their lives around” the tims they desire.” He said they est in children; it can take up to
team when White was the coach. female students at Parkview abuse and are often respected also typically exhibit traits that 100 or more incidents before a
She also had White for her driv- found White attractive. members of the community. make them appear trustworthy. person acting on those interests
er’s education class and called “So many girls had crushes That can make it easier to “Sex offenders are preda- is caught.
him a “great teacher.” on coach Ron White. He was groom potential victims. First, tory and often put themselves in Entirely preventing those
“We would drive and it just known to be very good-looking the abuser draws a child in, situations where they’ll have people from becoming teachers
be he and I,” she said. “I never by the high school girls,” She builds a relationship, and condi- contact with their victims,” he is not possible, Nichols said, but
had a moment of feeling uncom- said. “Ron white was a good- tions the child to be comfortable said. “And if you’re a mean per- reducing the likelihood of sexu-
fortable.” looking man and the high school to be touched, he said. son, it’s going to be hard to at- al abuse is.
Rippee said she was a teen- girls would talk about it.” Perhaps the abuser finds tract victims.” Youth organizations and
ager when her mother died of Rippee also pointed out that one-on-one time with the child Several of White’s jobs in the schools need to have rules on af-
cancer and the Whites practi- the Whites are “touchy-feely during which contact can be ini- district, which included super- ter-hours interactions, Nichols
cally took her in. She was best people” and would hug a strang- tiated, Nichols said, like teach- vising in-school suspensions said, and there must be a good
friends with their daughter and er. ing them how to swing a base- and teaching driver’s ed, would way for complaints to be heard,
called the Whites a “perfect She doesn’t want to discount ball bat or how to properly hold have put him in close contact followed up on and tracked.
family.” what the victim went through, a clarinet. with potentially vulnerable stu- “Abusers exploit un-
“I was at their house all the Rippee said, but she still has The abuser continually re- dents. knowns,” he said.
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HOW WILL SPS


AVOID ANOTHER
Weaving a
narrative RONNIE WHITE?
School officials believe steps have been
Lives of Nicaraguans,
Rainbow Network taken to safeguard against similar cases
efforts chronicled in
‘Over the Rainbow’
Page 1C

GREENE COUNTY JAIL

Consultant:
Failure to Maintain Boundaries
Inmate
population
growth not
sustainable
He warns there will
be a point when the
system maxes out
ALISSA ZHU
DZHU@NEWS-LEADER.COM

If the inmate population Absolute Prohibitions


keeps rising as it has in the
past, Greene County is expect-
ed to need a total of 2,008 jail
beds by 2037, up from the cur-
rent capacity of 601, a jail con-
sultant says.
“Literally unsustainable,” is
how consultant Bill Garnos de-
scribed the projected inmate
population growth to county
leaders. “You don’t have the
criminal justice system to sup-
port that type of inmate
growth.”
He warned there will be a tip-
ping point in the future when GIACOMO BOLOGNA GBOLOGNA@NEWS-LEADER.COM
the system maxes out — when AND CLAUDETTE RILEY CRILEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM FILED AND
the county cannot possibly hire FORGOTTEN SE
enough prosecutors, judges, RIES
lthough they still refuse to discuss the handling of allega-

A
public defenders and law en- Last Sunday:
tions against Ronnie White, Springfield school officials be-
forcement officers to keep up. Red flags and cra
lieve the steps they’ve taken will help safeguard against a cks in the system.
“The system would break similar case. Tuesday:
before we get to the numbers While no guarantees exist, officials said the changes put Ronnie White’s co
the math models are showing,” nfession,
in place in recent decades are aimed at closing the gaps and protect- and what others
said Garnos. knew.
ing students from being taken advantage of by teachers, coaches or Thursday:
Garnos told the News-Lead- other school employees.
er he hopes his findings will Experts weigh in
Two years ago, White was charged with deviate sexual assault of on
polygraphs and
an underage girl in the early 1990s. There is no indication the for-
See JAIL, Page 5A sexual predators.
mer student, now in her 40s, told authorities of the abuse at the time.
However, the prosecution of White, which ended with a guilty
plea, included a review of complaints in his school personnel file. It
showed female students had complained of inappropriate behavior
by White at three schools. The allegations were investigated, but in Online: To see
d
every situation, they were dismissed or deemed inconclusive. other stories an
eos in this series, go
Public entities connected to the case — including the prosecu- vid
Ne w s- Leader.
tor’s office, the school district and police — agree that if the com- online to
The News-Leader is pleased to Forgotten
plaints were made today, they would not be handled the same way. com/FiledAnd
announce that a new era in job
searching has arrived that’s per- So, what exactly has changed and do loopholes still exist?
District officials, who responded to News-Leader questions in INSIDE
sonalized just for you for every allegations
stage of your career. Our new writing after consulting with legal counsel, were adamant that State law keeps
her miscon duct
careers advancement portal fea- of teac
w,
tures the most advanced job See WHITE, Page 4A out of public vie
search technology and a compre- Page 4A
hensive collection of valuable and USA TODAY NETWORK ILLUSTRATION/GETTY IMAGES
timely career advice content. Visit
jobs.news-leader.com to start
building a brighter future.

I am an American Each week, this series will introduce you to an exceptional American. This week, read about Mari Aviles, who unites Indianapolis by planting trees. Page 5I

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4A August 6, 2017 SUNDAY NEWS-LEADER § News-Leader.com

THE CASE OF
RONNIE WHITE

Law keeps allegations of misconduct out of view


stantiated will result in the termination
State restricts access to job-related records of the employee. In cases where allega-
“The theory is that tions were investigated in an “immedi-
CLAUDETTE RILEY “There are also these concerns about we ate and appropriate” way and were not
defamation,” she said. “If a supervisor don’t tiptoe around substantiated, the district makes a note
CRILEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM when
writes up a teacher for doing something it comes to staff, th in the file.
Multiple allegations against former and that is provided to a third party and at we “The information concerning the alle-
feel confident whe
teacher Ronnie White were cataloged in the teacher claims it is a lie or a false- n we gation and investigation is maintained in
his Springfield Public Schools personnel hood or the person writing it is negligent are writing things an investigation file in the human re-
file, plain to see — but only for the select or reckless when they wrote it up, that , sources department,” said Lisa Turner,
putting things in
few district employees with access. person could be sued.” their the former chief director of human re-
Even the principals at many of the Goldammer said the confidentiality file, that we are no sources, who resigned June 30. “In addi-
schools where White taught and coached of personnel files is a useful tool. t tion, the employee’s file is ‘flagged’ to in-
said they were never told of past com- “The theory is that we don’t tiptoe
worried about dicate that a confidential case file ex-
plaints against him. around when it comes to staff, that we constantly getting ists.”
And while the district has updated feel confident when we are writing In July, the board approved revisions
many of its other policies regarding sex- things, putting things in their file, that to a personnel file policy adopted in late
ual abuse investigations, it is highly un- we are not worried about constantly get- 2014. The changes were part of an ongo-
likely that will change. ting sued by the employee,” she said. sued by the ing review of district policies.
e as honest
Missouri, like most states, restricts “We are as honest as we can be in those employee. We ar The policy states personnel records
ose
as we can be in th
access to the job-related records of pub- particular documents.” will only be available to the “district em-
lic employees, including teachers. She added: “Supervisors change, so ployees or independent contractors who
ents.”
Only select states, including Tennes- when the next supervisor comes in, they particular docum are authorized to access the informa-
see and Florida, allow public inspection need to be able to look up that file and see mmer tion.”
of personnel records, applications, disci- truthful statements. We don’t want su- — Susan Golda ployment Under the policy, the district will pro-
r direc to r of em
plinary records, references and person- pervisors hesitating to put things in Senio vide limited information about employ-
s at the
nel investigations. However, other de- those files. That is the whole point of and labor relation ees — name, position, salary and length
ho ol Bo ards’
tails, including Social Security numbers them.” Missouri Sc of service — in response to a public rec-
Asso cia tio n
and medical records, are not open to the Asked who has access to the person- ord request.
public. nel file, Goldammer said the answer de- Other details outlined in the policy in-
In nearly all cases, governmental en- pends on the size of the district. “The law clude:
tities are required to provide basic infor- does not go into that level of detail.” » Parents in schools that receive fed-
mation about employees including sala- She said in smaller districts, all files eral Title I funding can request informa-
ry, job title and employ- are typically housed in a central office, She said it’s not uncommon for parts tion regarding whether their children’s
ment status. There are ex- and in larger districts, additional layers of a personnel file to be restricted, even teachers are certified to teach the grade
ceptions, but they are typically exist. for the employee’s direct supervisor. level and subject area and if the teacher
rare. “Sometimes there is a central office “There is usually a medical file and we is under an emergency or provisional
Susan Goldammer, file but then there is a building file,” she don’t want people making employment certification status. This complies with a
senior director of em- said. “A lot of times, principals will keep decisions or being adversely influenced federal law.
ployment and labor rela- their own files as part of their evaluation by any kind of medical accommoda- » An employee can request to inspect
tions at the Missouri process and after the evaluation is com- tions.” his or her personnel file during work
Susan School Boards’ Associa- plete, it is sent to a central office for stor- Asked to list who has access to per- hours except for any ratings, reports and
Goldammer tion, said the state’s Sun- age.” sonnel files and where they are kept, the records obtained prior to employment
shine Law allows records Goldammer said there is no “strict Springfield district responded: “Person- including confidential placement papers
pertaining to employment and evalua- rule” about who has access, but it is typi- nel files are digital and only human re- and letters of reference.
tions to remain confidential. cally granted to immediate supervisors, sources staff have access to the employ- » If an individual board member
“You have what is called a liberty in- human resources departments, superin- ee’s official personnel file.” Employees’ wants to view any part of a personnel
terest in your reputation. It’s a type of tendents and, in some cases, assistant su- medical files are stored separately. file, including a job evaluation, he or she
property right,” she said. “The govern- perintendents over the particular area. In Springfield, employees granted ac- must ask for the item to be placed on the
ment cannot take that away from you “The board can request a copy, but it cess to personnel files will not necessar- agenda for the next board meeting. If
without due process.” needs to be the board as a whole and not ily know if a teacher has been accused of granted, the record will be available for
She said without giving an employee an individual board member,” she said. engaging in conduct of a sexual nature all board members to view at the meet-
due process, which typically includes a “Individual board members cannot just with a student. ing.
notice and a hearing, a district could be walk in and see somebody’s personnel District officials said, in a written » Employment contracts are not con-
vulnerable to a lawsuit. file.” statement, that allegations that are sub- sidered confidential personnel records.

White
Continued from Page 1A

inappropriate behavior — such as en-


gaging in sexual contact with students —
has never been tolerated.
“The district’s historic and continuing
practice is that any employee who is de-
termined to have engaged in conduct of a
sexual nature with a student will be ter-
minated from employment.”
The district points out that much has
changed since the early 1990s, the time
period during which White later admit-
ted he was repeatedly sexually abusing
the teen. It was the only time allega-
tions against White, which came to
light a few years ago, resulted in crimi-
nal charges.
“The district’s practices that were in
place in 1991-1993 have changed,” dis-
trict officials said, in the written re-
sponse. “The district continues to review
and revise its procedures on an annual
basis and (ensure) that it maintains pol-
icies which meet or exceed the require-
ments of federal and state law.”
The district has not commented on the
allegations against White that were in-
cluded in his personnel file. They
spanned a wider range of time, starting
in the early 1990s and ending in the late
2000s. He retired from the district in ANDREW JANSEN/NEWS-LEADER
2010. Documents in the Ronnie White case. Two years ago, White was charged with deviate sexual assault of an underage girl in the early 1990s. He
Internal improvements in the district pleaded guilty.
have been aided, over the years, by a
strengthening of the state’s mandated reer, resulted in a hotline call. It is un- District officials said the “internal” reporting and investigating child abuse
reporter law and policies that empower clear if any other hotline calls were investigation, which is nothing new, is and neglect.
districts to share information and take made. separate and in addition to any investiga- Among other things, the policy makes
action if employees engage in inappro- Last year, school board member Jill tion conducted by an outside agency. It is it clear mandated reporters must make
priate behavior. Patterson — a former prosecutor recog- typically done at the same time as, not the call right away and not wait in order
Among the practices in place today nized as an expert on mandated report- before, an external inquiry. to investigate first or notify a supervisor.
that were either missing or inconsistent ing — said the district is among the many “The district cooperates fully with “One of the difficult things about hot-
in the early 1990s: local institutions that have improved any investigation which is conducted by lining inside an institution is that if
» All new employees receive “man- compliance with the law since the early a law enforcement agency pursuant to a you’re my co-worker and I know you and
dated reporter” training during orienta- 1990s. report made by the district, or others,” you’re a nice guy or a nice woman, I trust
tion. The law requires any individual re- “I am confident that reporting has be- district officials said in the written re- you and it’s very hard for me to believe
sponsible for the care of children to im- come a priority at SPS and that the re- sponse. “The only time a district Investi- what has been alleged against you, and
mediately report suspected child abuse quired training requires employees to gation occurs without the involvement that’s why we mandated it,” Dan Patter-
or neglect. err on the side of the child,” she said at of an outside agency is if the state or lo- son said.
» All existing employees who interact the time. “Reporting may have been in- cal law enforcement agency declines to The prosecutor said by compelling
with students must review the “mandat- consistent in the 1990s and 2000s, but it conduct an investigation mandated reporters to make the call
ed reporter” rules annually within the has become the norm.” based on the information right away, you take away much of the
first 30 days of the school year. This is In recent years, school employees provided in the com- second-guessing.
primarily done online. have averaged 1,300 hotline calls a year plaint.” “If you have a reasonable suspicion of
» Employees accused of inappropri- to the state Children’s Division regard- Greene County Prose- child abuse, you don’t investigate it to de-
ate behavior with students are removed ing suspected child abuse or neglect. cutor Dan Patterson said cide if it’s true or not and then report it,”
from school property during the investi- Asked how many complaints of a sex- hotline calls create a “re- he said. “You report it immediately so
gation. ual nature were logged against person- pository that can identify that it can be investigated (by someone
» In nearly every case, complaints of nel, officials said there were two in each Dan Patterson patterns and trends.” else).”
a sexual nature are investigated by an of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. “That’s another very Susan Goldammer, an attorney with
outside agency such as the Children’s Di- The district did not respond to a question important reason for hotline calls to be the Missouri School Boards’ Association,
vision or the Springfield Police Depart- regarding the outcome of those investi- made,” he said. “While not every call will said many districts — including Spring-
ment. gations. result in a prosecution or an action by the field — have adopted or revised policies
» The personnel files of employees The district employs a law enforce- Children’s Division, being able to see regarding staff and student relations to
accused of engaging in conduct of a sex- ment officer who works out of the human that pattern can be important when prohibit behavior that is blatantly
ual nature with students, substantiated resources department and oversees the there are future allegations made.” wrong, as well as behavior that can be de-
or not, are “flagged” for tracking. internal portion of personnel investiga- During the past school year, as part of scribed as “grooming.”
A review of White’s personnel file tions, which includes checking for any an ongoing review of all district policy,
shows that one allegation, late in his ca- violation of board policy. the board updated its policy regarding Continued on Next Page
SUNDAY NEWS-LEADER § News-Leader.com August 6, 2017 5A

Jail
Continued from Page 1A

“reinvigorate” the community to con-


tinue to find ways to manage the jail pop-
ulation.
Garnos was hired in April by the coun-
ty to analyze local inmate population
growth and future jail space needs.
Garnos presented the results of the
study Friday afternoon.
In five years, the jail will need 1,155
beds. In 10 years, 1,430 beds. Another 10
years after that, 2,008 beds.
Greene County’s overall population is
expected to grow steadily in the next
decades, likely putting more pressure on
its criminal justice system.
Garnos said the county jail has seen a
trend of more high-security inmates,
longer-stay inmates and inmates who
suffer from mental health or substance
abuse issues.
One key factor in slowing inmate pop-
ulation growth, Garnos said, will be tak-
ing a closer look at an “unusual and dra-
matic” spike in the average length of stay. NEWS-LEADER FILE PHOTO
The average length of stay for in- This area of the Greene County Jail houses inmates in dormitory style bunks.
mates has gone up significantly, Garnos
said. In 2010 it was 12.7 days. Six years
later, the average was 20.4 days. Greene County currently has the larg- on state charges, awaiting trial, Garnos
“We can see what’s happening, but I est jail among un-chartered counties in said. A smaller portion — 15 percent —
can’t tell you exactly why,” Garnos said. Missouri, Garnos said. With about are being held at the jail for U.S. Mar-
“We have to be very careful in projects 289,000 residents, Greene County also shals on federal charges.
like this with pointing fingers.” has the biggest population in that group. The jail has not held any inmates ar-
Overworked, underpaid public de- The ratio of jail beds per 1,000 county rested on municipal charges since the
fenders are one part of the judicial sys- residents is 2.1, which is normal among sheriff stopped taking them in April 2015
tem that Garnos said others in the com- comparable counties in the state, Garnos — sparking a lawsuit that was recently
munity have said may be contributing to said. dropped by the city, county and sheriff.
longer stays in jail. The study also contained a snapshot If an expected countywide sales tax
Greene County Commissioner Harold of the jail’s population demographics increase is passed by voters, the county
Bengsch told the News-Leader that the from May 11. On that day, the Greene will use a portion of the revenue to ex-
overcrowded jail and the associated costs County Sheriff’s Office was detaining pand the jail. If that happens, the sheriff
of housing inmates out-of-county are criti- 757 inmates. has agreed to start housing up to 48
cal concerns that need to be addressed. Sex: ALISSA ZHU/NEWS-LEADER municipal inmates a day free of charge
Bengsch said the jail will need to be » 84 percent male Consultant Bill Garnos was hired by Greene to the city.
expanded, possibly with extra room re- » 16 percent female County to study inmate population trends. He Other factors Garnos said county offi-
served for further construction in the fu- Age: presented his findings Friday. cials should investigate include a declin-
ture. » 1 percent under 18 ing number of inmates being booked and
At the same time, Bengsch said, com- » 35 percent between 18 and 29 released each month, the declining avail-
munity leaders must come together to » 32 percent between 30 and 39 » 18 percent had been in jail between ability of jail beds in other counties’ jails
find solutions for mental health, sub- » 19 percent between 40 and 49 14 and 30 days in the region, probation trends and a
stance abuse and addiction issues. » 11 percent between 50 and 59 » 17 percent had been in jail between growing volume of outstanding arrest
One component, Bengsch said, will be » 3 percent 60 or older 31 and 60 days warrants.
a mental health assessment the health Race: » 12 percent had been in jail between Garnos is an independent consultant
department recently received grant » 79 percent white 61 and 90 days who serves on the Gladstone, Missouri
funding to do. The study will examine the » 17 percent black » 31 percent had been in jail between City Council. According to the report,
gap in mental health services in Spring- » 3 percent Hispanic 91 and 180 days Garnos has directed or assisted with jail
field, he said. » 1 percent Native American or Asian » 9 percent had been in jail between planning projects for more than 100 cit-
Close to 65 percent of inmates in the Charges: 181 and 364 days ies and counties in 27 states.
Greene County Jail have mental health » 85 percent were inmates being held » 15 percent had been in jail more Greene County spokesperson Trysta
or substance abuse issues, Bengsch said. on state charges than a year Herzog said the county’s contracted ar-
If people can be treated instead of » 15 percent were inmates being held About 18 percent were being housed chitecture firm, nForm Architecture,
locked up, “it will have a tremendous im- on federal charges at out-of-county jails. The sheriff’s of- subcontracted Garnos for his work at a
pact on reducing the number of violators Length of stay: fice contracts with several other coun- rate of $85 an hour. To date, the county
that may need the services of our jail,” » 21 percent had been in jail between ties across the state for jail space. has paid Garnos about $10,500, Herzog
Bengsch said. one and 14 days The majority of inmates are housed said.

THE CASE OF
RONNIE WHITE
White
Continued from Page 4A

“It has helped districts, quite honest-


ly, identify some situations where
boundaries were broken, and thankfully
we’ve been able to get teachers out of the
classroom before they actually harmed
kids,” she said.
The policy was developed by MSBA
and then suggested to districts based on
“patterns” of inappropriate behavior
that typically precede sexual harass-
ment or sexual activity. She said it gives
districts a tool to identify “potential
problem” employees.
“Teachers really shouldn’t be, for ex-
ample, constantly texting the kids with-
out a darn good educational reason.”
She said other “red flags” include
teachers providing alcohol or tobacco,
giving rides in their personal vehicles,
giving expensive gifts, inviting students
over to their homes or spending time be-
hind closed doors without a legitimate
reason.
“These are the kinds of things people
are starting to bring to the attention of
the district,” she said. “... It then triggers
the district to do an investigation and
we’re happy to say several schools have NATHAN PAPES/NEWS-LEADER
caught situations where teachers were Pipkin Middle School is the last place where Ronnie White worked during his career with Springfield Public Schools.
certainly acting unprofessionally with
children.”
Goldammer said the policy, adopted they were not told of any prior allega- tion for the district as a whole to track 100 percent” of educators
by Springfield in 2012, gives districts a tions against the teacher. their employees and so if that didn’t hap- are good people who
tool to discipline or even terminate em- They all wished they had been told in pen, for whatever reason, that was prob- would never hurt a child.
ployees, including tenured teachers, advance. ably a mistake.” “They are in it for the
who engage in inappropriate behavior, Everett Isaacs, who was the Central She said the Amy Hestir Student Pro- right reasons,” he said.
even if sexual contact has not yet taken principal, said he understands the need tection Act requires a public district to “But, in every profession,
place. for confidentiality on personnel matters divulge if a school employee, seeking a there are people who slip
District officials said if a teacher is but believes student safe- job in another district, was terminated or Dennis Lewis through the cracks and
accused of engaging in sexual conduct ty is critical and key infor- resigned amid allegations of sexual mis- they get hired.”
with a student but the investigation is in- mation should be shared conduct. She described it as a “big Lewis, who runs a safety consulting
conclusive, the complaint is noted. between schools and prin- change” in expectations. firm based in Springfield, said he tells
“The information concerning the alle- cipals. “The state statute actually requires the districts he works with that the “No. 1
gation and investigation is maintained in “When it comes to districts to share that information,” she and No. 2 places for predators to look for
an investigation file in the human re- something like that, when said. victims is the internet and schools.”
sources department,” district officials it comes to kids, you can’t Goldammer said sexual conduct is not He said while significant improve-
said, in writing. “In addition, the employ- Everett Isaacs be too careful,” he said. defined, but MSBA and most districts in- ments have been made in addressing and
ee’s personnel file is ‘flagged’ to indicate Goldammer said dis- terpret it to include sexual harassment. investigating personnel complaints over
that a confidential case file exists.” tricts have a legal obligation to share in- She said if a district fails to disclose the the years, districts must remain vigilant.
Asked who has access to personnel formation about allegations of a sexual information and the employee harms a He said while rare, no district is immune
files, the district said “only human re- nature. child in the next district, it could open the from teachers who cross the line.
sources staff.” “The district as a whole is liable for all door for a lawsuit. “There are Ron Whites everywhere.
The principals at Central High School of the parts, so the district can’t claim it Dennis Lewis, who was in charge of There are Ron Whites all over the coun-
and Pipkin Middle School, the final didn’t know because the left hand didn’t school police from 1990 to 2006 — cover- try,” he said. “Don’t quote me saying it’s
places White worked during his 25-year know what the right hand was doing,” ing most of the years White worked for rampant, but there are staff members
career with the Springfield district, said she said. “... Legally, there is an obliga- the district — said he believes “close to who do it and they get away with it.”