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Former Cedar Rapids substitute teacher pleads not guilty to sex exploitation charge

Trial date not yet set for Mary Beth Haglin

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A former Washington High School substitute teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student filed a written not guilty plea Wednesday in Linn County Associate District Court.

Mary Beth Haglin, 24, is charged with sexual exploitation by a counselor, therapist or school employee, an aggravated misdemeanor, the criminal complaint shows. The Linn County Attorney’s Office filed trial information last Friday and a judge approved the charge, which allows prosecutors to go forward. Court records show a date for the trial has been set at Nov. 14 of this year, with a pretrial conference on Oct. 26.

In Linn County, in-person arraignments are not conducted, unless defendants don’t file a written plea.

Haglin was arrested and charged in July. According to the complaint, Haglin had a sexual relationship with a student between Jan. 1 and May 17 while she worked as a substitute teacher at Washington High, 2205 Forest Drive SE, in Cedar Rapids.

Haglin, if convicted, faces up to two years in jail and being listed on the sex offender registry for 10 years.

Two longtime Washington High administrators, Principal Ralph Plagman and Associate Principal Michael Johnson, abruptly retired over the fallout regarding the way the internal investigation of Haglin was handled. The district’s human resources director, Jill Cirivello, has also left her position.

Haglin started working as a substitute for Washington High in January and was removed from her position in May after school administrators conducted an investigation beginning in April.

But during the first investigation in February, Plagman and Johnson determined rumors of the relationship were unfounded.

According to emails acquired by The Gazette through a Freedom of Information Act request, Plagman during a second investigation of the rumored sexual relationship, agreed to write Haglin a letter of recommendation. The request came three months after Plagman and Johnson first investigated Haglin and wrongly determining the rumors to be unfounded.

After she left Washington High, district officials then failed to remove Haglin from a substitute teacher database, and she was placed as a substitute teacher in a different school for nine days at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.

District officials on Tuesday closed a six-week-long, in-house investigation that aimed to answer questions about events related to Haglin.

In an interview with The Gazette after her release from jail on bail, Haglin admitted to a sexual relationship with the student and said Washington administrators knew about the relationship and told her to keep it “hush-hush.”

A district statement released Tuesday didn’t provide much new information, citing student and personnel confidentiality.

Although administrators had been trained in September 2015 on investigative procedures — which Superintendent Brad Buck mentioned at the Aug. 8 school board meeting — Plagman and Johnson did not follow those procedures during their first investigation in February, the statement reads.

The district statement said the probe wasn’t “an effective investigation.”

The Washington High administrators again failed to use the correct investigation techniques during their second investigation, according to the statement.

That investigation began in April, according to the statement, weeks before Plagman agreed to recommend Haglin for other teaching positions. Haglin has said rumors of her relationship had picked back up after a video of her and the student was posted online.

— Reporter Molly Duffy contributed to this article

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