K-12 Education

Initial inquiry into C.R. teacher-student sex case lasted one day

Report on Washington High's investigation doesn't exist, district says

Mary Elizabeth Haglin
Mary Elizabeth Haglin

CEDAR RAPIDS — An investigation that could have possibly detected a teacher-student sexual relationship months earlier lasted one day and wasn’t documented, according to district officials, although policy requires it.

The revelations raise more questions about whether administrators mishandled inquiries into Mary Beth Haglin, 24, a long-term substitute teacher arrested last week on a sexual exploitation charge.

Police say that while she taught at Washington High School, she had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male student at the school.

Although she was arrested last week, Washington High administrators were looking into her possible wrongdoing roughly five months ago.

Cedar Rapids district officials would not name the investigators, but said the investigation was done by administrators at Washington High.

District policy defines sexual abuse by a school employee as “any sexual act with or directed toward a student.” It requires an investigator to send copies of an investigative report to the accused employee and to the student’s parents.

But since a report was not created, the parents of Haglin’s alleged victim could not have been formally notified — though the district said one parent was “made aware.”

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Haglin told The Gazette she never received a copy of such a document after the school-level investigation.

That initial investigation — which Superintendent Brad Buck said lasted a day in early February — involved interviewing the teenager and other students and reviewing social media.

As a result, rumors of Haglin’s inappropriate relationship with a student were determined to be unfounded.

Months after the initial investigation, Haglin now has admitted she was having sex with the teen at the time, and continued to do so.

“At that time I denied everything,” Haglin said. “Well, I didn’t really have a chance to deny much because they basically did all the talking.”

Haglin said administrators told her they hadn’t found evidence of a relationship after conducting interviews and checking her social media pages.

“They said they did not find sufficient information, so they just let me go about my duties,” she said.

Washington High Principal Ralph Plagman declined to comment.

“While I would like to comment,” he said in an email, “it would be both unethical and illegal for me to discuss a personnel matter publicly.”

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Even though the rumor was determined to be unfounded, proper protocol would have had the investigator sign a statement verifying a copy of the report was given to the student’s parent or guardian, according to district policy.

“There is no report,” district spokeswoman Marcia Hughes said. She did not respond to further questions.

Rumors about Haglin and the student still simmered until mid-April, when Haglin said a video of the two together outside a Smokin’ Joe’s Tobacco and Liquor Outlet was posted online.

The video circulated on Twitter, Haglin said, and students began interrupting her class to ask her about it.

About a month later, she learned administrators had conducted another investigation.

District officials would not confirm whether a report on that second investigation exists.

Haglin was asked to leave her teaching position on May 17. She said Washington administrators recommended she say she was leaving for personal reasons.

Superintendent Buck said that was so Haglin could save face.

“The sentiment of it was to allow her to leave with dignity given the current state of information and evidence that we had,” Buck said. “We did not have additional evidence that the relationship was actually occurring, so what we were trying to balance there is — while we didn’t have specific evidence, we had someone who was substitute teaching and ... we could just remove her from that circumstance.”

The next week, Buck reported Haglin’s conduct to the Board of Educational Examiners as an ethical violation. That letter is dated May 26 and was received June 6.

Haglin’s conduct was also reported to the Cedar Rapids Police Department after her removal, said Greg Buelow, the department’s public information officer, and officers opened a sexual abuse investigation of Haglin on May 30.

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But that police tip, district officials said, did not come from them.

Lee Hermiston of The Gazette contributed to this report.

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