The Maxwell board of education spent more than two hours behind closed doors Monday and decided not to take action against three administrators who were recently cited for failure to report child abuse. The citations stem from three wrestlers who allegedly sexually abused another wrestler at a 2011 camp, and another incident among wrestlers on a team bus in the spring of 2012.
The surprising citations sparked speculation about the extent of alleged abuse.
The board went into closed session shortly after the regular meeting began at 7 p.m. to talk about the charges and listen to concerned parents. At least two parents went behind the doors to talk personally with the board.
The school’s attorney Tim Thompson arrived and was admitted to the session. So was board member Doug Whisenhunt, who arrived late. No administrators were in the closed session.
When the board returned to open session about 9:15 p.m., board president Casey Meyer said no action would be taken regarding administrative personnel, and he did not elaborate.
Shane Montgomery, the chairman of the village board, asked why nothing was being done, to which Meyer said again that no action would be taken.
Montgomery asked what options were available to the board, and Thompson said any options under Nebraska Revised Statutes 79 regarding school personnel.
A handful of parents left. They said they were disappointed.
Those who stayed told the board they are worried that students don’t have a neutral person to confide in, since the superintendent, high school principal/activities director and wrestling coach have been cited, and the school counselor is married to the high school principal.
“What if they don’t feel safe going to administrators?” Montgomery said.
Twarling said he was offended by the question.
“I apologize. I didn’t mean to offend you,” Montgomery said. “We’re just trying to look out for the well-being of the kids.”
“Who could they go to?” a woman asked. “Is there a neutral person to talk to? If a student has a problem, who is their advocate and their voice? If something happens now or two weeks from now, who do they talk to?”
The board promised to consider it.
“We don’t know right now,” board member Bob Keller said. “We’ll figure it out and we’ll get back to you.”
“Four of us have kids in the school,” Meyer said. “We don’t know but we will work with the administration to figure it out.”
After the meeting, one parent who asked not to be identified said there is a long-standing concern that bullying between students is sometimes improperly addressed at the school, and that intimidation might be hampering full disclosure of the child abuse allegations.
Before the regular meeting ended, Twarling said Maxwell students have generally scored well on Nebraska standardized tests. Those scores and scores on the American College Test (ACT) are above the norm in most categories. He said he’d have a full report at the next board meeting in October.
At the end of the regular meeting, Twarling unexpectedly asked for a closed session to discuss his contract.
The board closed the door again for 30 minutes. They returned to open session at 10:17 p.m. only to adjourn the meeting.
The three Maxwell school officials are officially charged with failure "to make a report of child abuse or neglect" to law enforcement or to the Nebraska Health and Human Services department, according to the Nebraska State Patrol. The charge is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of three months in jail and a $500 fine.
Twarling, 61, is in his second year as the Maxwell superintendent. He is a former director of human resources for the North Platte School District, and a principal at North Platte High.
This report was corrected Wednesday morning. The woman who asked the question "Where could they go to?" did not identify herself.