Smith-Green Schools board: ‘time to move forward’ from bullying at Churubusco

Local News

CHURUBUSCO, Ind. (WANE) — The Smith-Green Community Schools board has pledged to study its bullying policies and said it stands behind district administration as a special prosecutor investigates claims of misconduct surrounding a group of middle schoolers at Churubusco Middle School.

In a statement Monday, the board the case “sparked a lot of misinformation and malicious
rumors about our students, schools, and community,” and much was “unfounded.”

Allegations of extreme bullying and sexual assault raised during a Smith-Green Community Schools board meeting in late October. During the public comment section, one parent alleged that several students were being urinated on while in a middle school locker room. The parent also claimed that some students were touched inappropriately.

Multiple police agencies, including Indiana State Police, investigated the allegations.

Here the board’s statement, presented verbatim:

The Smith-Green Community School Board is issuing the following response to the junior high school locker room incident and the public comments made at the October 11, 2021 School Board meeting.
That incident and the subsequent discussion sparked a lot of misinformation and malicious rumors about our students, schools, and community, which must now be addressed accurately. As to the most concerning issue, based on the official investigations, the initial accusations of sexual assault, specifically sodomy, were determined to be unfounded. We must also make clear that Dr. Hile was not involved in the investigation in any way. No one received special consideration in the handling of this incident.
When building level administrators learned of certain allegations, they promptly reported the incident to law enforcement, as legally required. To avoid any potential conflict of interest, the Indiana State Police conducted the criminal investigation. At the same time, Churubusco Junior-Senior High School administrators conducted a school disciplinary investigation. At the request of the school board, two experienced, well-respected, retired superintendents from outside the area reviewed the investigatory and discipline process. After conducting that audit, those superintendents determined that the process and the punishment imposed were proper, ethical, and appropriate.
Finally, and without question, we are confident in our district leadership; those leaders have repeatedly proven their academic, financial, and ethical capabilities. Dr. Hile’s work is recognized and respected regionally and nationally. Vindictive social media crusades based on falsehoods, half-truths, and gossip cannot and will not alter our conviction that we have the best team in place to lead our schools.
As promised, the Board will review policies as they pertain to student conflicts and bullying with the community members selected from the survey. Those people will be notified of the specifics of that review in the near future.
Now it is time for us to move forward together as a community, making improvements where needed based on facts, not rumor, innuendo, or fabrication. Let us return to being proud of Smith-Green Community Schools and the entire Churubusco community.

Smith-Green Community Schools board

After receiving the statement, WANE 15 asked the district:

  • Is the criminal investigation complete?
  • To clear up the “misinformation and malicious rumors,” what can you tell us about what specifically happened and what the investigation found?
  • Why was Dr. Hile singled out in the statement?
  • Has anyone addressed the district’s parents? How can they be confident in/trust the investigation?
  • Parents claim the district has a long history of bullying, what improvements does the district plan on making moving forward?

Our request for an interview was denied. However, Superintendent Dr. Daniel Hile sent the following response:

The statement that was released by the Board is intended to provide all of the information that can be shared at this time.  As you are probably already aware, state and federal privacy laws prohibit a school corporation from sharing confidential information.

In response to your last question: as shared previously, a group that includes a variety of stakeholders is being formed to review and discuss our current practices as it relates to student conflict and bullying.  The group will include parents, students, and several school personnel who deal with these types of concerns.  The group will review our current policies, and discuss possible adjustments or changes that may be warranted.  Once complete, the results of these discussions will be shared publicly at a future school board meeting.

Dr. Daniel Hile, Smith-Green Community Schools Superintendent

A parent, who’s had multiple kids in the Smith-Green School district said she’s “not surprised” the board said it wants to move forward. She asked to remain unnamed.

“I think that’s all they want to do is move forward and hope that people will forget the things that have happened. They can say whatever they want to regarding comments made on social media and so forth,” said the parent. “But, you can’t deny when you have so many people saying the same thing. There’s clearly a problem. What’s also clear is that these people either don’t know how to deal with it or simply don’t want to.”

She added she thinks the district needs to “have some personnel changes.”

According to data provided by the Indiana Department of Education, neither Churubusco Elementary or Jr-Sr High Schools reported a single bullying incident during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Brian Walker said the investigation has been turned over to the Whitley County Prosecutor’s Office. To avoid a “conflict of interest,” Huntington County Prosecutor Jeremy Nix has been named special prosecutor in the case.

He told WANE 15 last week that he would not have “any further statement until the review has been completed and filing decision, if any, have been made.” He said he is reviewing ISP’s report for potential filing.

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