A former Glenwood Community High School social studies and communications teacher who is suspected of having sex with a student and supplying alcohol to another student at his rural Glenwood home was the subject of an initial investigation by the Glenwood Community School District six months ago.
Russell Crouch, 38, was arrested Friday afternoon after turning himself in to authorities. He is facing charges of sexual exploitation by a school employee, an aggravated misdemeanor, and supplying alcohol to a minor, a serious misdemeanor. If convicted of the sex charge, Crouch could face up to two years in prison and a fine up to $6,250. He would also have to register as a sex offender. The alcohol charge carries a possible prison sentence of one year and a $500 fine.
Crouch was released from jail Friday after posting $3,000 bond.
A criminal complaint filed in Mills County District Court by investigator Kirk Worcester of the Glenwood Police Department alleges the relationship between Crouch and a female student began in November 2013 and continued into May. “The relationship became physical through kissing and then intercourse,” the complaint states.
Crouch allegedly supplied alcohol to a second female student at his home in March, according to court documents.
Glenwood Community School District Superintendent Devin Embray said administrators were first made aware of a possible inappropriate relationship between Crouch and a student in December 2013. He said a complaint from a parent resulted in an investigation headed by GCHS principal Shane Stephens and assistant principal Rick Nickerson.
“An investigation was done and we took action based on the information we had at the time,” Embray said.
Embray declined to elaborate on what specific action was taken, saying the matter was “personnel” related. Crouch was allowed to continue to teach and coach extra-curricular activities with speech and drama students.
Glenwood Police Chief Eric Johansen said his department was notified in December of the first complaint made to administrators about Crouch, but the school district investigation determined the accusation to be “unfounded.”
Johansen said his department initiated an investigation of its own in mid May after receiving a citizen complaint alleging an inappropriate relationship between Crouch and a student. Johansen said the school district had already started a new investigation of its own prior to being contacted by police investigators in May.
Crouch lives outside the city limits and the law enforcement investigation would have normally been handled by the Mills County Sheriff’s Office. However, because Crouch’s father, Richard Crouch, serves on the Mills County Board of Supervisors, the sheriff’s office requested the police department handle the investigation to avoid a possible conflict of interest.
Embray said the district launched its probe in May after a parent reported what they believed to be an improper relationship between Crouch and a student. Heidi Stanley, principal at Glenwood Middle School and the district’s Level I investigator, headed up the second investigation.
Crouch was placed on paid administrative leave before resigning in a letter dated May 18. The district turned over its investigative findings to the police on May 21 and the resignation (effective May 30) was accepted by the Glenwood Board of Education at a special meeting May 22.
“When the investigation got to the point we felt this could be criminal in nature we suspended our investigation and turned it over to police,” Embray said.
“We turned over all of our investigative notes to the police,”
Embray said district protocol is to investigate all allegations and if the matter appears to be criminal in nature then law enforcement is notified.
Embray said the evidence uncovered in the May investigation was “much more substantial” than what the first investigation revealed. The district has not been asked to turn over any of Crouch’s electronic communications from his school e-mail account, Embray said.
Crouch, a 1994 GCHS graduate, was a popular teacher and speech and drama coach at GCHS before submitting his resignation.
“Over the past month, I have been debating as to whether high school education is the route that I should continue on,” Crouch stated in his resignation letter. “As much as I love teaching, I don’t believe that teaching at Glenwood High School is the right place for me.
“Please accept my resignation as a high school social studies teacher as well as any extra duty assignments that I currently have.”
Stephens said he was disappointed to learn the results of the May investigations and the subsequent arrest of Crouch.
“It’s disappointing, not just as a principal or not just as an educator, but as a person,” Stephens said. “When people make mistakes like that, they end up hurting kids.
“I’m severely disappointed and I’m naturally heartbroken that something like this happened under my watch. Although I’m not taking any responsibility for it, it happened with one of my teachers. Although I think he’s a great teacher, that is a horrific mistake to make.”
Stephens said “his thoughts and prayers” are with the students affected by the situation, their families and Crouch’s family.
Embray was asked if the situation would result in a code of ethics training for staff members.
“I think whenever you have a situation that comes up you always question whether there is adequate training involved in terms of what is going on,” he said. “That’s not to excuse the behavior; it’s to make more people aware. We would probably consider, not more training, but more awareness.”
Embray said he’s received only a few communications from parents about the situation, but the tone of the comments have been similar.
“They’re very concerned with our children’s safety,” Embray said. “We feel we are a very safe school and a safe environment and when issues happen we deal with them appropriately and accordingly and take action when and wherever we possibly can.”
The Mills County Attorney’s Office was involved in the issuance of charges against Crouch, but county attorney Eric Hansen said Friday it’s possible further prosecution could be handled by an outside agency because of Richard Crouch’s position on the board of supervisors.