St. Paul school officials get earful about peeping janitor - KMSP-TV

St. Paul school officials get earful about peeping janitor

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

On Monday night, parents got a chance to ask school leaders why they didn't learn a 30-year employee of the St. Paul Public School system had been accused of peeping on young boys until the media did -- and they didn't hold back.

"We are here tonight because we have a range of emotions -- mad, frustrated, sad or just plain disappointed," Principal Bryan Bass said.

Many parents of Linwood Monroe Arts Plus students are very upset that the school system didn't tell them more about the February incident that led to the arrest of Walter Happel, a longtime janitor who was charged with interfering with privacy on Thursday.

"It makes you wonder who else is under the radar too," George Clark told Fox 9 News. "I don't know this guy; I've never met him, but still, that's pretty creepy -- having a secret room and all these other things. That's enough to scare any parent."

Happel was placed on administrative leave after an 11-year-old boy accused him of peeping under a bathroom stall. He resigned six days later, but parents didn't hear details about the departure until mid-March.

MORE: Charges detail Happel's disciplinary history, new claims

Charging documents filed last week say that even after Happel turned over his keys and access cards, he returned to the school to remove items from a secret room, including male enhancement gel, testosterone and energy pills.

The fact that Happel is the second employee at the school to be accused of inappropriate behavior involving a student is also compounding concerns for parents. Just a few weeks before Happel's resignation, another staffer was accused of inappropriate communication.

"Communication is the No. 1 concern I've heard from a number of families," Assistant Superintendent Christine Osorio said.

No one wants better communication than Aniya Beckom, but she didn't seem optimistic when she spoke to Fox 9 News.

"They don't get it. They aren't going to get it," she said.

Three years ago, Beckom complained that Happel followed her then-12-year-old son into a bathroom and then commented on his own exposed privates -- an incident she says is still affecting her son.

"He's angry; he's upset, but mostly, he's shut down," Beckom said. "He's not showing no emotion towards the case."

Now that the same janitor has been arrested and charged with peeking at another student while he used a toilet, Beckom isn't mincing words.

"I feel like the school really doesn't care," she said.

District officials pledged to do a better job of communicating with parents and will also add recurring background checks on employees, security cameras and training to help staff spot warning signs in employees and visitors -- but some parents in the audience say talk is cheap.

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