Police, Shattuck-St. Mary's differ on whether abuse was reported

Shattuck St. Mary's campus
The iconic archway leading into the campus of Shattuck-St. Mary's, a private college preparatory school in Faribault, Minn., in an undated file photo.
Photo by Jackson Forderer for MPR

Police said a second staff member at Shattuck-St. Mary's School may have been involved with sexual misconduct at the school, a day after charges were filed against former teacher Lynn Seibel.

Seibel was charged Monday with having sexual contact with six students. He faces 17 counts of sexual misconduct in Rice County District Court.

On Tuesday, Faribault Police Chief Don Gudmundson confirmed police were investigating a second staffer at the school in connection with the sex probe, a 34-year-old teacher who killed himself with a shotgun in 2008.

Gudmundson said Leonard "Len" Jones, a dorm director, teacher and lacrosse coach, had been suspected of having an affair with a teenage foreign national and student at the school, starting when she was 15 and lasting until she was 18.

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The police chief said Jones committed suicide after being confronted by school officials about the relationship. Gudmundson said that police only discovered the alleged affair during the investigation of Jones' death. He said the student confirmed the relationship to police.

The Jones case raises questions about whether Shattuck-St. Mary's has more than once failed to report student abuse -- as required by law.

Gudmundson said that police only discovered Jones' alleged affair during the investigation into his suicide. Gudmundson said the student confirmed the relationship to police four years ago.

Gudmundson said he's unaware that Shattuck St. Mary's ever raised the issue of Jones' alleged misconduct with police before the teacher committed suicide.

"Using history as our guide, I don't believe that the school would have reported that to us," Gudmundson said. "Except that in this case, they had a dead body."

However, a statement released from the school Tuesday afternoon said that school officials said they learned of the misconduct in the Jones case hours before his suicide. They said they were in the process of investigating and removing Jones from campus when he killed himself. They said that they told police immediately, and that this was thoroughly discussed in meeting with students and parents after the fact.

The school's statement read: "At no time did the school do anything other than seek to be open and transparent about these circumstances with its students, families, faculty, staff and law enforcement."

The police chief earlier Tuesday declined to discuss the Jones case, which happened before he joined the department. Gudmundson said he'd been unaware of the investigation into Jones' death, but discovered there was an "extensive file" on the case during the investigation of Seibel.

Gudmundson later confirmed the allegations against Jones when asked specifically about the 2008 death by Minnesota Public Radio news.

Gudmundson also said that he believes the matter might have turned out differently if the school had been more forthcoming with police and reported the incident as required by law.

"They were conducting their own investigation, and that should have not happened," Gudmundson said. "Once they became aware there were allegations surrounding an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a student, they should have contacted the professionals, which are the police. We would have stepped in and done the investigation, and perhaps a tragic outcome... would not have happened."

The police chief said he was "disappointed" by the school's response to the allegations of misconduct by faculty involving students. "Certainly they would appear to have if not [criminal] legal liability, they would have civil liability with these young people," Gudmundson said.

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