Friday 27 January 2012

MAPS and WIAA Say, "Innocent Until Proven Guilty"

Posted at 8:02 AM

Yesterday morning we were joined by Merrill Area Public Schools Board President Bill Yeager and Interim Superintendent Bruce Anderson for Community Scan. Both spoke about the current investigation involving drug use by a Merrill School District employee and former employees.

Middle School teacher Jay Peterson is currently on “non-disciplinary administrative paid leave,” and Anderson explained that it’s a paid leave because an individual is innocent until proven guilty. "We have no proof that the individual has done anything wrong," Anderson said.

Joan Gralla echoed Mr. Anderson’s statement when she spoke to WJMT News about Peter Miller. Gralla is in charge of officials with the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association. Since retiring as a teacher in Merrill and having previously served as the athletic director, Miller has been an active official with the WIAA.

Gralla explained that all officials are licensed with the WIAA. And to get the license, they must complete an application that includes answering the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” The WIAA does NOT conduct background checks and there is no drug screening for officials.

She said that the WIAA will not act on a pending legal case until an official has been “charged and convicted” of a felony. Even a conviction of a misdemeanor would not violate the WIAA's policy.

At this time no charges have been filed against Miller, Peterson or Anthony Crabb, who served as a substitute teacher in Merrill.

Gralla said that if an official is convicted of a felony, the WIAA’s only real course of discipline in to revoke that official’s license. Even then, the individual can reapply for a license and Gralla said the WIAA will review the application and could reissue a license.

WIAA Officials and substitute teachers are not employed by the WIAA or the school district. Those individuals are “independent contractors" or as Anderson put it, "at will employees." Anderson said, "We have the discression to say we do not need those individuals at this time." MAPS has opted not to elist the services of Miller and Crabb while the investigation contines.

Meanwhile, the Antigo School District will meet next week to discuss four employees who are currently on paid administrative leave. Football coach and elementary principal John Lund is no longer on paid leave after being charged with 8 drug related offenses, including maintaining a drug trafficking place.


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