SPARTA — Two elementary principals in the Highland Local School District have been placed on administrative leave for not immediately notifying Children Services or law enforcement following a report of possible sexual misconduct involving a Highland Elementary student. Upon investigation, the Morrow County Sheriff’s Office has reported that Michael Winkelfoos and Debra Knechtly did not follow proper protocol of Ohio Revised Code 2151.421, reporting child abuse or neglect.
District Superintendent William Dodds was contacted by the News Wednesday afternoon after news of the principals being placed on administrative leave was released. Dodds said that the incident was reported by a first-grade teacher but not witnessed, and was unable to say if the failure to report the incident immediately was on the part of the teacher or the principals. “That’s actually where the dispute is, what the sheriff’s investigation surrounds, is the timely reporting,” said Dodds.
In a sheriff’s report obtained by the News on Wednesday, details state that the incident occurred from Oct. 5 to Oct. 18, with the sheriff’s report listing a report date of Oct. 22. Dodds claimed the incident was reported to the sheriff’s office on Oct. 19.
Whether the incident occurred on the school grounds or elsewhere could not be determined by Dodds. “All of our students are safe. This was involving the matter of whether or not the suspected abuse was reported on time,” said Dodds. He described the incident as a case of child abuse/neglect rather than sexual misconduct.
A public records request was made to the superintendent’s office Wednesday afternoon seeking the personnel files of Winkelfoos and Knechtly. After the files had not yet been received this morning, district treasurer Jon Mason told the News that there was no information in these files about this recent incident. “It’s ongoing ... there’s nothing there,” said Mason.
No charges have yet been filed in the case. The investigation recently completed by the sheriff’s office has been turned over to the Morrow County Prosecutor for legal review.
County prosecutor Charles Howland was reported to be out of the office until Friday. Assistants at the prosecutor’s office declined to provide further information.
Morrow County Sheriff’s Deputy Troy Landon refused further comment, and calls to Morrow County Children Services were not returned.
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