The former Casper middle school teacher who sexually abused a student contested the school district’s decision to fire him in the wake of his arrest.
Those administrative processes were underway already when — 12 days after the arrest of the teacher, Jason Waugaman — the school district announced it had fired him, according to emails provided to the Star-Tribune under state public records law.
It was not clear on Thursday afternoon what portion of the school district’s termination decision the 36-year-old Waugaman contested. The outcome of an administrative hearing that would address the issue was also not publicly known.
Although public records indicate that Waugaman requested the hearing, the district declined on Thursday to describe the administrative outcome. A lawyer who represented Waugaman in his dealings with the school district did not respond to a Star-Tribune request sent Thursday morning seeking comment.
In any case, the school board finalized Waugaman’s dismissal in February, about two weeks after his request for a hearing. He pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to a single felony in the criminal case. Attorneys will ask that he be sentenced to six to 12 years imprisonment for the conviction, which came as part of a deal with prosecutors.
Information about the case has become public only slowly.
Casper police on Jan. 16 announced that they had arrested earlier that day a school district employee suspected of sexual abuse of a child whom he knew through his job. The next day, Waugaman appeared in court and said he had worked for the Natrona County School District for more than a decade. School officials released a brief statement following the arrest indicating that safeguards had been put into place to protect students. But the district told the Star-Tribune then that officials could not comment at all on the case, citing state law that prohibits government employees from identifying people accused of sex crimes before cases advance past their preliminary stages.
On Jan. 21, a district spokeswoman declined on the basis of that law to say if Waugaman was still employed, what safeguards had been put into place to ensure he had no contact with students, when the district became aware of the allegations, or what the district was doing to look for any other victims.
The next day, public records provided to the Star-Tribune indicate, the district provided Waugaman notice of his termination.
Michael Jennings, the district’s human resources director and soon-to-be superintendent, emailed Waugaman on Jan. 22 a document entitled “employee record of separation.” That document had not yet been processed, Jennings wrote, and a final copy still remained due. The district last month, citing an exemption to Wyoming public records law, declined to provide the Star-Tribune a copy of the document.
After the case had moved forward to district court, which releases government entities from the privacy law that school officials had cited, the school district said that it had fired Waugaman.
“While Mr. (Jason) Waugaman was in police custody the District deactivated his electronic key access to school buildings, his access to student information, and his access to district communication channels,” said the district in a press release. “Mr. Waugaman was permanently prohibited by the Natrona County School District from being on school grounds.”
The press release did not state when the district had dismissed the tutor and part-time teacher. A day prior, though, the lawyer handling administrative proceedings had contacted the district. The district’s lawyer, Craig Silva, told the Star-Tribune last month that Erin Kendall, the Cheyenne lawyer who represented Waugaman in his dealings with the school district, had addressed the district in a Jan. 27 letter, which he declined to provide.
On Jan. 29, Silva emailed Jennings and Superintendent Steve Hopkins and asked them to review documents pertaining to Waugaman’s termination. Silva declined to provide copies of those documents to the Star-Tribune, contending that — because they are a portion of Waugaman’s personnel records — they are exempt from the Wyoming law that makes government records available to the public.
In denying the Star-Tribune’s request for copies of the documents attached to the Jan. 29 email, Silva described in somewhat more detail their nature. One of the documents was a letter in response to Kendall’s communication sent days prior. He did not describe the contents of the letters. Also attached to the email was a supplemental notice of termination and a request for a hearing before the state office of administrative hearings.
That office is authorized to review termination of government employees. And such hearings are held on the request of the employee. The office on Thursday referred the Star-Tribune back to the district when asked about the outcome of the hearing.
Tanya Southerland, a district spokeswoman, declined to comment on the outcome of the hearing and directed the Star-Tribune to the state office and Kendall.
Although Waugaman would have been entitled to a hearing, the documents do not necessarily indicate he went through with the process. If it were cancelled, though, state law would have required his approval.
The school board completed Waugaman’s termination — effective Jan. 22, the date of Jennings’ initial email — at its Feb. 10 meeting, according to minutes of that meeting.
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