K-12 Education

Cedar Rapids schools didn't initially report suspicions of teacher-student sex

District didn't call police, let Washington High sub teach at other schools

Mary Elizabeth Haglin
Mary Elizabeth Haglin

CEDAR RAPIDS — Even though Washington High School administrators ousted substitute teacher Mary Beth Haglin over their belief she had a sexual relationship with a student, no one in the district ever called police to investigate or for a month took steps to keep her from teaching in other schools.

After Washington High administrators let the long-term sub go on May 17, Haglin continued to have access to SubCentral, a multidistrict database for substitute teachers operated by the Grant Wood Area Education Agency, she said in an interview with The Gazette.

With full access to SubCentral, Haglin said she applied to work at Harrison and Madison elementaries shortly after being told to leave Washington High.

“They didn’t ban me,” she said. “They never actually said they were banning me from school grounds, they never said they were banning me from working at any other school, they never said they were banning me from thus-and-so many feet of any school. They never said any of that.”

Haglin, 24, and a 17-year-old student at the school first had sex in October 2015 and slept together frequently throughout the school year, she said.

Administrators at Washington first heard allegations about the relationship in February, Superintendent Brad Buck said, but determined them to be unfounded. A second investigation in May gave administrators reason enough to ask Haglin to leave. Buck said he did not learn of the earlier allegations until Haglin’s removal in May.

Still, despite the removal, no one in the district reported their suspicions to police, Buck said, though he did report Haglin’s conduct to the state Board of Educational Examiners in a May 26 letter.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

After being removed from Washington, Haglin went on to teach at Harrison and Madison elementaries until classes ended there June 2.

The district “knew full well that I was there,” Haglin said. “There was no way they could not have known. I’m sure that they were tracking me and checking me.”

Although the district did not report the incident to police, someone else did and Cedar Rapids police opened an investigation. Haglin was arrested Friday on a warrant for sexual exploitation by a counselor, therapist or school employee. She faces up to a two-year prison term and a decade on the sex offender registry.

In a statement after the arrest, district officials characterized her placement at the elementary schools as “a miscommunication.”

It was the responsibility of the district’s Human Resources Department to ask the AEA to remove Haglin from the database, district officials said. School board documents show the human resources director, Jill Cirivello, retired June 30 at age 56.

A spokeswoman for the Grant Wood AEA, which maintains SubCentral, said the agency was kept in the dark about Haglin’s conduct and didn’t receive communication from the Cedar Rapids district to remove her from the database until June 14.

The notification came almost a month after Washington officials removed Haglin because of the school inquiry.

“Districts must communicate back to SubCentral with concerns about any substitute teacher placements to help ensure the fidelity of the teachers in the system,” spokeswoman Renee Nelson said. “We did not receive communication from the Cedar Rapids Community School District of any allegations nor of the concerns submitted to the Board of Education.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

The district did ask May 18 for SubCentral to remove Haglin from Washington, Nelson said — but didn’t ask for further action.

The district’s silence allowed Haglin to access the database as easily as she had before she lost her job at Washington, Haglin said.

College Community, Linn-Mar, Marion and Metro Catholic Schools also use SubCentral to hire substitute teachers.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.