ROCKY RIVER, Ohio (WJW) — Lawyers met behind closed doors Friday trying to block police in an investigation into Rocky River teachers, and the I-Team was there pressing for answers to questions parents are asking.
We revealed last week, the Rocky River School District and teachers have been fighting a demand for evidence.
And, that has held up a criminal investigation.
For weeks, questions have been swirling about talk of a teacher taking an explicit picture of a female student and sending that to other teachers.
That led to a hearing Friday in Rocky River court. Lawyers asked a judge to prevent police from collecting certain evidence.
The court said only the lawyers and the judge could sit in on that hearing.
So, we put the lawyers on the spot on the way out.
We asked three of them to explain why they are resisting handing over evidence in a criminal investigation.
Two of the attorneys did not answer.
A third simply said, “Very nice to meet you, but we are going to go.”
The investigation began with two teachers caught on camera talking in what the district has described as “inappropriate” conversation about another teacher and a student.
In one clip, a teacher can be heard saying, “I’m thinking is he taking pictures of her in class?”
No explicit picture of a student has been found. But, the superintendent has said the district did find an “inappropriate” picture of a fully-clothed female student on one teacher’s phone.
Days ago, five teachers resigned and one retired.
The Rocky River prosecutor has claimed the district has withheld possible evidence, and that led to the Friday court hearing.
While our camera could not go into the hearing and record what happened, we have learned what was discussed. At issue, the statements teachers gave to the district in its internal investigation. A judge will decide if those statements can be turned over to police for the criminal investigation. Or, are the statements legally protected?
Wednesday, Superintendent Michael Shoaf said in a video statement, “The district will also continue to cooperate with the Rocky River Police Department as they continue their criminal investigation.”
And yet, despite statements like that, the district is involved in a battle over releasing documents and other possible evidence to police.
In fact, the battle has not been settled. Judge Donna Congeni Fitzsimmons set another hearing in two weeks.
We’ve learned the school district has turned over some records requested by investigators, but the prosecutor has not outlined exactly what since evidence is still being gathered and police are still looking into whether any crime was committed.