Archive for Saturday, March 10, 2001

East Heights principal to resign

District drops allegations of abuse

March 10, 2001


The Lawrence school district administration Friday cleared East Heights School's suspended principal of accusations that she was responsible for alleged abuse of a special-education student.

Supt. Randy Weseman also said the district agreed to provide Laura Blevins with legal counsel to defend her against abuse allegations pending before the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

In turn, Blevins resigned as principal of the 185-student school effective at the end of her contract June 30. She will continue to be on paid leave until that time.

The school board voted last year not to renew her contract for 2001-2002. As a formality, her resignation will be voted on Monday by the school board.

Weseman placed Blevins on paid leave Nov. 22, when reports surfaced that SRS was investigating the principal's possible role in an October incident in which a severely disabled kindergartner was allowed to smear feces on himself and eat his own waste while in a disciplinary time-out room at East Heights. Staff at the elementary school stood by and took no action to stop the boy's behavior, said his mother, Sarah Sandoval.

"I know my son was falsely imprisoned and his constitutional rights were violated," she said.

Sandoval said SRS case workers sent her a letter indicating the boy suffered physical neglect at the hands of an unidentified "third party."

Sandoval and her attorney, Darryl Graves, have yet to file a lawsuit against Blevins or the district.

After Blevins' suspension from East Heights, Weseman appointed Gary Johnson as interim principal at the school, 1430 Haskell Ave. Johnson will continue in that role until the district selects a permanent replacement. A successor could be hired by late April.

The district's investigation, conducted by Pete Curran, the school board's lawyer, and Patricia Baker, general counsel for the Kansas Association of School Boards, showed that Blevins acted appropriately, Weseman said.

"The district has independently investigated allegations against Laura Blevins," he said. "Ms. Blevins did not abuse or neglect the student, but instead, acted in a reasonable and prudent manner."

Arthurine Criswell, Lawrence area director of SRS, confirmed the agency investigated alleged abuse at East Heights. She said the case wasn't closed, but was uncertain what the agency's next step would be.

"Obviously, they've made some decisions, which we'll take under consideration," Criswell said.

Blevins didn't return calls for comment.

She was hired as East Heights' principal in 1997, five months after the school board voted to close the school. That vote was reversed when school board candidates in favor of keeping East Heights open were elected.

Blevins' removal could have been forecast, said Austin Turney, the board president. He said she hadn't lived up to the school board's expectations, and that the performance of children at the school on standardized tests has consistently been among the district's worst.

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