Glenwood Police Chief Eric Johansen said his department is continuing its investigation into an alleged sexual assault of a student at Glenwood Community High School by a former school district employee.
Andrew Schoening, 19, is accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old female student inside a closet at the school.
Glenwood Superintendent of Schools Devin Embray said Schoening, a 2010 GCHS graduate, had been employed with the school district as a part-time computer technician since the 2010-2011 school year. He worked approximately 20 hours a week providing technology support in buildings throughout the district. Last August, Embray said, Schoening took on the added responsibility of overseeing the high school’s audio visual team. The team, made up of GCHS students, provides content and coordination of the video replay screens at school sporting events.
The 15-year-old girl told investigators Schoening forced her to have sex during the Dec. 20 incident. Court documents show Schoening admitted to having sex with the girl, but his attorney, Michael Murphy of Council Bluffs, said the act was consensual.
“You’ve got a sex act between two people, but there was no force,” Murphy said. “Our whole problem has to do with the age difference.”
Mills County Attorney Eric Hansen said third-degree sexual abuse is a broad term which requires a prosecutor to pursue charges when a person age 15 engages in a sex act with a person who is 19 or older. The age of consent in Iowa is 16.
“At this point, we’ve charged this as statutory, so whether or not it was consensual is irrelevant,” Hansen said.
GCHS principal Kerry Newman said she and other school district staff members were first informed of the incident in mid-January. The school district immediately contacted the Glenwood Police Department, she said. Johansen said his department was notified of the incident by both school officials and the victim on Jan. 16. Schoening admitted that night to having sex with the girl during questioning from police investigators. He was arrested Jan. 17.
Schoening, who has resigned from his position with the school district, has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Friday in Mills County District Court. An April 24 trial date has been set. If convicted, Hansen said Schoening’s punishment could range from a deferred judgment to up to 10 years in prison. The charge does not carry a mandatory prison sentence, Hansen said.
Newman said support is being offered to students who have been affected by the incident. Assemblies were conducted at the school Friday to encourage students to be supportive and respectful to one another.
“We just reminded them of the importance of showing kindness and being there for each other,” Newman said. “Our job as a school is to support and protect students and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Newman said students were also reminded during the assemblies not to spread rumors or false information and not to post comments or information on social media sites, such as Facebook, that can be hurtful or damaging to others.
Newman acknowledged she has concerns about the district hiring employees who are recent high school graduates or similar in age to some of the students they may find themselves interacting with as part of their job.
Embray said the district always seeks to hire the most qualified person for a job when filling an opening.
“We try to hire the best applicant for the position,” Embray said. “Andrew was the best qualified for the position. We wouldn’t discriminate because of age.”
Typically, Embray said, Schoening didn’t work with students in his role as a computer technician. His interaction with students began when he assumed the video production responsibilities at the start of the current school year. Schoening was provided with guidance pertaining to proper protocol and conduct in relationship to students at the time of his hire, Embray said.
“We talk to classified staff about their limitations,” Embray said. “Mr. Schoening was well aware of what was acceptable and what was not.”
Newman and Embray both said student safety is a top priority for the district and the incident will likely result in a review of policies, something that is done on a regular basis.
“It’s a tragic event,” Embray said. “We’ll look at our protocol and try to prevent something like this from happening again.”