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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Ind. Courts - "Park Tudor could avoid prosecution in Kyle Cox sexting case"

The ILB has had coverage of the Park Tudor and IPS alleged instances of failure to timely report child abuse to DCS, as well as the Indiana Supreme Court ruling that the four hours it took Christopher Smith, then the principal at Muncie Central High School, to report a suspected rape was too long. See particularly this post from March 2, 2016, as well as these posts from Feb. 7 and Feb. 14.

Today Justin Mack reports in a lengthy story in the Indianapolis Star:

Park Tudor School could avoid federal prosecution for its mishandling of a 2015 sexting case that led to the imprisonment of a school official.

The decision not to prosecute comes with key conditions: continued cooperation with investigators, prompt and honest reporting of incidents, and complete access by investigators to people and documents at the exclusive Indianapolis private school, U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler said Tuesday.

The school must spend the next 14 months meeting requirements outlined in a 10-page deferment agreement focused on keeping the students of the institution safe, said Minkler, who also said the school did not receive any special treatment.

Minkler said he hoped the agreement can serve as blueprint for future criminal cases involving an institution. * * *

According to court documents, the girl's father discovered the messages and met with former head of school Matthew D. Miller and attorney Michael Blickman on Dec. 14 to tell them what was going on between his daughter and Cox. This was just days before the girl had agreed to meet Cox at his home for sex last December.

The girl's father showed Miller and Blickman screen shots of explicit messages between Cox and his daughter, which included a graphic picture of the girl. He allowed those school officials to keep the computer overnight to review the material.

The next day, on Dec. 15, a different Park Tudor official reported the suspected misconduct to the Department of Child Services by speaker phone. Court documents said Miller failed to inform that school official that Cox had exchanged messages with the student.

"The Park Tudor Head of School was present when the DCS official expressly inquired whether any pictures were exchanged. The Park Tudor Head of School was present when the other school official indicated that she had no information on that, and he did not correct that statement," said a portion of the agreement filed Tuesday.

On Dec. 16, Miller returned the computer to the student's parents and had the school's outside counsel negotiate a confidentiality agreement with them, court documents said.

On Jan. 21, Miller made false statements to IMPD detectives about his presence when the second school official made her report to DCS, the documents said, as well as about having first-hand knowledge of the sexting.

Miller died days later at his home. His death was ruled a suicide, according to the Marion County coroner's office.

The deferred prosecution agreement states Miller's actions made the institution subject to prosecution for the offense of misprision of felony. The offense applies when parties knowingly participate in a felony and do not disclose it to authorities. * * *

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Park Tudor officials said that other than Miller, no other employees were implicated.

"Nevertheless, we recognize that the school made mistakes in relation to the Kyle Cox matter, and we regret those mistakes," said the school's statement.

Officials added that Cox's victims should be remembered, and that the former coach's actions do not represent the values of the school. In the past few months, administrators at the school say they have trained staff and modified policies regarding child abuse prevention.

According to court documents, substantial revisions have been made to the school handbook and manual on matters of child abuse reporting procedures, digital communication policies and descriptions of prohibited conduct. All faculty, staff and board members have also been trained in programs presented by Prevent Child Abuse Indiana.

The school is also working with former Federal Appellate Court Judge John Tinder on additional student-safety measures.

"Kyle Cox's reprehensible and criminal actions were wrong — both legally and morally — and a betrayal of that for which our school stands. Moreover, Park Tudor's response, through the actions of Matthew Miller and the school's then legal counsel, was inappropriate and not what we expect from our school. Nor is it what we will tolerate going forward," said the school's statement. * * *

"Institutionally, these types of occurrences are happening. You’ve got complainants involving USA Gymnastics. You have complaints involving IPS. So it's important to create, I think, a template institutions can look at and say, 'OK here's how we can turn this around. Here's how we can take full accountability and responsibility for what's going on, and here's how we can prevent this from happening again,' " Minkler said. "Clearly that was our goal in this agreement."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 16, 2016 08:06 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts