On Nov. 20 Bismarck Public Schools sent a statement out saying that Century High School teacher Gregg Schmidt is on paid administrative leave. On Thursday, the school district released more details outlining why he was placed on leave.
Three Students Raise Concerns Over Schmidt’s Actions
According to the investigation report conducted by Bismarck Public Schools on Nov. 3, a student went to her school counselor asking to not be in Gregg Schmidt’s U.S. History class anymore.
The reports says “the student cited occurrences in class which made her feel uncomfortable.” The school counselor asked the student to speak with the assistant principal, Sharon Espeland because the counselor felt that the information shared warranted involvement from administration.
Bismarck Public Schools HR manager, Lisa Kudelka was contacted and “it was determined that a follow up with additional people to determine if this is an isolated incident or if it was a wider issue amongst other classes.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 15 the student met with Kudelka and Espeland to talk about the students comments. The student’s comments during this meeting matched what was given in the initial report so the student was allowed to change classes. During this meeting a second student “came to Espeland’s office to share concerns about comments from a different class of Schmidt’s.” Later in the meeting a third student came to the office to report her concerns.
The report completed by Bismarck Public Schools outlines a number of the student’s claims of sexual harassment and harassment. One of the students claimed she told Schmidt that she would be absent from class and wanted to know if there was any work to be done. Schmidt reportedly said that “a hug was all he needed.” To which the student said no and returned to her desk. When asked about this claim during the investigation Schmidt said he didn’t recall this happening, but did say that “he was talking about ‘beauty myth’ in sociology and they were talking about different responses males and females have when it comes to hugging.”
The same student said that Schmidt has rubbed students’ shoulders and touched students’ backs including her's making her uncomfortable. Schmidt’s reply to this was “that he does put his hands on students’ shoulders when he is moving around the room and he didn’t realize he was causing any level of discomfort.”
One of the other students says that Schmidt has antlers above his desk with "bootie" shorts hanging from them and a Victoria’s secret bag behind the display.
When asked about this display Schmidt said “the shorts are from a male student who wore them to P.E. class. The male student signed them and they are now hanging in his room. The Victoria Secret bag was from a former female student. The student brought him a candy bar wrapped in tissue paper in the Victoria Secret bag as a joke. He kept the bag and made it part of his display.”
Another claim by the student who made the ‘bootie’ shorts complaint says that Schmidt had a bottle of hand sanitizer. When a student used the student said it felt different to which Schmidt replied “oh it’s lube, students gave it to me.” The reports says when Schmidt was questioned about this he laughed and said “it was a prank that some boys gave to him as a parting gift.”
Discrimination and Bullying Claims
The three students in the report also made claims that Schmidt had said things that were discriminatory in nature and had done things that could be classed as bullying. One of the students said that “Schmidt was talking about how transgender bathrooms were inappropriate. In a joking manner, he stated, “Can’t talk too much about it or I’ll get written up.” When Schmidt was asked about what he said he denied saying it was inappropriate but did have a short discussion and said that they are not going to have this discussion in class.”
One of the three students claimed that Schmidt would cup his hand and hit students on the back. She said that it doesn’t hurt but isn’t comfortable. Schmidt’s reply to this was that he “does put his hands on students’ shoulders when he is moving around the room and he didn’t realize he was causing any level of discomfort.”
Insubordination Claims Made by Students and Administration
In the report a student says that Schmidt talks about a Viagra clock that he got as a gift from a student and that the administration told him to take it down. When questioned about this claim Schmidt said “that it was the principal prior to 2010 that had directed him to take down the clock. When asked if he still has this, he stated that it was stowed away in his room.” The administration wrote that they are still concerned that a discussion is still alive about something that happened over seven years ago.
Outcomes of the Investigation
The investigation report says that after these claims were made a meeting was held between Schmidt, Century High principal Steve Madler and B.P.S. HR manager Lisa Kudelka. The report says that after Madler had read some of the claims and gave Schmidt the opportunity to respond, he “became very apologetic and said that he feels embarrassed because he didn’t realize he was causing students to feel this way.” Schmidt then said that he has to change and if he can’t he needs to resign.
The District's Decision
In a letter sent to Schmidt from Century principal Madler it says that Schmidt’s return to the classroom will be conditioned on his ability to demonstrate improvements in a number of areas. The letter says that Schmidt will be expected to work school administration to develop a plan that addresses areas of concern.
Friday the administration said Schmidt hasn’t returned to the classroom and don’t have a specific date when he will be back in the classroom.