Your Courts, Their Secrets
Parents furious about principal's denials about teacher fondling complaints
Seattle Times staff reporters
Embattled Skyline High School Principal Ed Young has disputed the accounts of two families that say they told him about a teacher fondling their daughters.
In response, one mother said of Young, "He is lying through his teeth."
After a story Sunday in The Seattle Times, the Issaquah School District — which includes Skyline — ordered an investigation into whether Young responded appropriately to complaints about John Carl Leede, a former teacher of Young's when they were in the Northshore School District.
The newspaper, citing school and law-enforcement records, reported that Young received at least nine warnings about Leede fondling or inappropriately touching students. But Young didn't discipline Leede or report him to police or Child Protective Services. It was only after parents notified police that Leede was arrested and removed from the schools.
Leede, now 55, was convicted in 2000 of seven misdemeanors, including six counts of assaulting students. He is a registered sex offender and lives in Seattle.
One of the students Leede was convicted of assaulting was a fourth-grader who told police that Leede would hold her from behind in a kind of headlock and rub her breasts. When the girl told her mother about Leede in 1996, the mother complained to Young, according to school and law-enforcement records.
Young responded by calling the girl into his office and questioning her in front of Leede, with no one else present, the records show.
But Young wrote in an e-mail to The Issaquah Press: "The mention of a girl being grabbed, her breast rubbed, and being pulled back in a headlock. I do not recall this incident at all. I have never received any complaints where something like this happened."
The mother said Thursday that she had called Young at home and explicitly told him about Leede holding her daughter in a headlock and rubbing her breasts. "I'll swear on my daughter's life," the mother said.
"I'm livid that he would have the audacity to lie about this," she said. "My daughter has been through sheer hell since this happened."
Young has not responded to repeated requests from The Seattle Times for an interview.
The Seattle Times is not naming the mother to protect her daughter's privacy.
This family was one of three that filed a legal claim against Northshore, Leede, Young and three other principals. The claim alleged that the principals failed to protect students from Leede. The claim was settled in 2001 for $700,000, but a confidentiality agreement ordered records destroyed and court records sealed. The agreement also prohibited anyone involved from disparaging any other party, or face a $10,000 fine.
The newspaper wrote about the case as part of a continuing investigation of improperly sealed court records.
Young also disputed a second account in The Times story, writing to The Issaquah Press: "A similar incident was mentioned about a father seeing Leede touch his daughter's breast. This was also not reported in this manner. The father reported seeing Leede hug his daughter in front of him. There was never any mention of breast touching."
When told Thursday of Young's account, the father replied: "A person will say anything to protect a $100,000-a-year job. What he's saying is not true."
This father's daughter was also one of the victims Leede pleaded guilty to assaulting. The father said he saw Leede wrap his arms around his daughter and touch her breast. The father warned Leede that he would be going to the hospital if he ever touched the girl like that again.
The father said he met with Young the next day and showed him how Leede had touched the girl's breast: "I left no doubt where Mr. Leede's hands were."
Questions about Young's work in the Northshore district go beyond his handling of complaints. When Leede was up for a transfer to another school in 1999, Young told the district's personnel director that Leede did not have any problems with touching students, according to a memo the personnel director wrote. At the time, Young had been warned repeatedly about Leede's touching by teachers, staff members and parents, records show.
The Northshore district formally reprimanded Young in 1999, saying his inadequate supervision contributed to the district's failure to detect Leede's "touching issues" earlier.
The Issaquah School District, where Young works now, has hired an independent investigator to review documents and conduct interviews concerning Young's supervision of Leede. The district hopes that investigation is completed next week, said Sara Niegowski, a district spokeswoman.
"The questions specifically are: Just what was Ed Young's involvement in the Northshore School District with this teacher? What did he know? What should he have known? Was he reprimanded? That sort of thing," Niegowski said.
Ken Armstrong: 206-464-3730 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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