Principal resigns over sexting, parents allege cover-up

November 21, 2011 3:39:40 AM PST
Officials at Deerpath Middle School in Lake Forest say Principal John Steinert, who has been accused of sending explicit text messages, has resigned.

While the scandal broke last week, some school officials knew about Steinert's text messaging issue. Now, parents are accusing Superintendent Dr. Harry Griffith and board members of covering up Steinert's 2009 conviction of misdemeanor harassment of electronic equipment.

"For two years, this has been a total cover-up. Are you going to allow this to continue?" said parent Jerry Tunney.

Steinert, 40, pleaded guilty to using a district-issued cellphone to send sexually explicit texts and a photograph of his genitals to a 22-year-old female Lake Forest Police Department intern.

Griffith says that in 2009, he was only given a partial police report.

"We had information that this was about texting between two adults. When we actually saw what the real material was -- which was about three days ago -- that was henious behavior," Griffith said.

ABC7 obtained a copy of that police report. Many of the text messages are too explicit to show, but even in those that are not, the intent is clear.

One June 8, 2008, Steinert sent a text that said: "What are you doing tonight? Want to meet up somewhere? We need to get together sometime soon."

She replied, "Maybe I haven't been clear with you. LEAVE ME ALONE. U r harassing me. I have no interest in you."

"I did not understand that that redacted document was eventually going to be un-redacted later on when the actual event occurred, when the court itself finally ruled on this," Griffith said.

But parents are not buying it. They believe Griffith and school board members could have done more.

"I have no reason not to believe that, but when presented with something like that that looks so suspicious, I would think that the proper thing to do in his position would be to ultimately try and find out what really happened," said parent Michael Beecham.

Dr. Harry Griffith plans to retire at the end of June. He said Sunday night that he has no plans of quitting before then. There are three current school board members who served on the board in 2009, including the president. She also said she is not resigning.

The school board said there will be more community meetings to talk about the scandal. One of those meetings is 5 p.m. Monday. The school is also establishing a task force to ensure something like this does not happen again.

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