KIRKWOOD, Mo. — It started with one woman's story of sexual abuse at the hands of her high school teacher.
Katie Pappageorge posted it last week on the Kirkwood High School alumni Facebook page. She was just 13 years old when she says the abuse began at school and off campus.
Since then more than a dozen other former Kirkwood High School students have shared similar stories and called for the district to take responsibility.
Kirkwood School District Superintendent David Ulrich announced Monday he will request approval for an independent assessment and investigation of how sexual abuse allegations are reported and handled in the district.
Yet his efforts come decades too late for many survivors, including Jill Wilson.
Wilson remembers the focused attention she received from one of her teachers at Kirkwood High School in the late 90s.
"He was mentoring me. He was helping me figure out where i wanted to go to university," said Wilson, who graduated with the Kirkwood High School Class of 1996. "It progressed to him flirting with me. As a teenager, it's like 'oh my gosh, he's falling in love with me'."
Eventually Wilson says his behavior escalated.
"He came up behind me and asked me if I wanted a massage and he literally put his hands up my shirt. I didn't ask for that," said Wilson.
Yet she still didn't see him as a predator. After all, for so long, he'd been her mentor.
After graduating in 1996, she even agreed to go back to Kirkwood High School to help him with a student activity. That was a turning point.
"At that point I began to see he was using the same behavior he had used with me. I could see it was inappropriate. The girls were freshmen, like 15. Young," said Wilson.
Wilson said she went into the teacher's office and on a hunch and began looking through a file cabinet.
"I found a manila folder that was marked 'student writings'. It was all love letters, poems, talking about 'how great it was to see you last night'," said Wilson.
Wilson said one of the other students the teacher has focused on was then 13-year-old Katie Pappageorge.
"He started meeting privately with me. He said, 'Let's work one on one'. That's where the grooming started," said Pappageorge, graduate of Kirkwood High School's Class of 1999.
Disturbed and with the letters, Wilson reported everything to then principal Franklin McCallie.
"No counselors in the room, no women in the room..It was just us," said Wilson.
Weeks later, she said McCallie called her to tell her the teacher was allowed to resign. And there was something else.
"He said, 'he's very upset that he's lost his career and he's on suicide watch'. i don't know why he told me that part other than, it's like a manipulation and it worked. Because then i felt ashamed," said Wilson. "But he never asked me 'are you OK? Do you need counseling'?"
Former principal McCallie recently share a lengthy statement on Facebook about the allegations, saying in part...
"I regret I did not do more" and "the teacher's license to teach in Missouri schools K-12 was taken away but he was not taken to trial".
Shamed into silence for decades, it was only last year that Wilson and Pappageorge finally decided to file a police report.
Kirkwood police told the I-Team the case against the teacher is still open.
Several abuse survivors are now circulating a Change.org petition and a list of demands both aimed at getting accountability and reform within the district.
Wilson said based on how allegations against her teacher were handled, she's not surprised that so many other students are now coming forward with their own stories of abuse.
"[My teacher] was allowed to resign, and then there was just a bunch of rumors left over. And then he continued to teach. So the consequences weren't really that big of a deal for him. And all the other teachers were watching that," said Wilson.
Anyone with information is urged to inform the district through an online form on the Kirkwood schools' website or call Dr. Howard Fields, assistant superintendent of human resources at 314.213.6100, ext. 7804 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Ms. Cindi Nelson, director of human resources at 314.213.6100 ext. 7809 or email email@example.com
The district is also offering counseling services for survivors.
Full statement form Kirkwood School District
"Superintendent David Ulrich announces that at tonight’s (July 13) Board of Education meeting, he will request approval to post a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an independent assessment and investigation of the culture and climate within our schools and the District related to the reporting and handling of allegations of sexual abuse, misconduct, and inappropriate behavior.
In light of the recent allegations brought forward on the KHS Alumni Facebook page as well as reports received by our human resources department, I believe it is in the best interest of our students, staff and school community to bring in an outside organization to ensure transparency,” said Dr. David Ulrich superintendent of schools effective July 1, 2020.
The overarching goals of the project are to identify and investigate whether there have been previously unreported incidents or failures to take prompt and appropriate action in response to complaints and determine if students, staff, and parents have confidence in reporting and know to whom and how to report an incident.
The RFP will be posted for three weeks. A representative committee of staff members, parents, and students led by the new Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Howard Fields will review the RFP. A recommendation will be made at the next scheduled Board meeting on August 31 for Board review and approval.
The RFP is an addition to the direct steps implemented by the District on Thursday, July 9, asking anyone who has information related to abuse, misconduct, or inappropriate behavior by any current or former KSD staff member to contact the District via an online form at www.kirkwoodschools.org/report or call either:
Dr. Howard Fields, assistant superintendent of human resources
314.213.6100, ext. 7804 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- or -
Ms. Cindi Nelson, director of human resources
314.213.6100 ext. 7809 or email email@example.com
We also encourage anyone who may have information to contact the Kirkwood Police Department. KSD is also offering counseling services to survivors, please call the above numbers or complete the form at www.kirkwoodschools.org/report."
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