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New Lincoln Middle School Principal was disciplined a year ago; his attorney says district investigation process is flawed

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – John Green II, who was recently named Principal of Lincoln Middle School, was investigated last year for failing to make a mandatory report of an incident that may have involved human trafficking. The investigation found probable cause of wrongdoing, with recommended disciplinary actions of 2 days unpaid suspension, mandatory training, reassignment of duties, and a letter of reprimand. However, Green’s attorney objected to the process and wrote a letter to be included with the investigative report.

What the investigation found

According to the investigative report, sometime around July 14, 2021 (none of the witnesses were able to establish the exact date), a call was put through to Green, who was an Assistant Principal at Gainesville High School (GHS) at the time, from a parent who said her daughter had been in trouble earlier in the year on her school-issued laptop and that she wanted to turn the laptop back in to the school. Green told the investigator that the mom then brought the laptop to his office and again said her daughter had been in trouble earlier in the year, and she didn’t want to get in trouble. Green said the mom said her daughter had been reaching out to older men, and the mom had let one of the men know that her daughter was 16. Green said he remembered seeing a picture of a check, either on the computer or on the mom’s phone. Green said he told the mom that he would reach out to the School Resource Officer (SRO) and the site tech, and he would let her know if they found anything.

The site tech said he received a call from Green about a laptop that had been returned by a parent because a student had visited inappropriate sites. He said that when he received the laptop soon afterward, he began re-imaging it.

On July 20, GHS received a call from a parent, asking to speak to Green. The person who answered the call said Green no longer worked there and asked whether the parent could speak to someone else. The parent said she had returned a laptop to Green, said something about “human trafficking,” and said her daughter had run away, so she wanted the laptop to give to the police. The call was transferred to Assistant Principal Frederic Ashford.

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Ashford sent a text to Green, who replied that he thought the site tech had wiped the laptop; the site tech confirmed that he had re-imaged the laptop. The SRO told Ashford to file a report with Gainesville Police Department (GPD).

Green told an investigator hired by Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) that he spoke with the SRO after first speaking with the parent and that the SRO said that officers don’t typically look through a school computer unless the school finds something concerning. Green said he then gave the laptop to the site tech and told him about the mother’s concerns. 

The site tech told the investigator that Green told him the parent was concerned that the daughter was “on sites she shouldn’t be on,” so he followed his usual procedures and turned the laptop on. He didn’t see anything concerning, so he re-imaged it. He said Green never mentioned human trafficking to him in reference to the laptop.

The SRO told the investigator that Green told him a parent had concerns that her daughter may have been involved in human trafficking on a school laptop and that the parent had shown Green a screenshot on the computer of a check in the amount of $2,500 (this check was described as $1,500 and $2,500 by various witnesses; the investigative report shows a screenshot of a check in the amount of $1,500). The SRO said he told Green he was on assignment at another location, but if he found anything criminal on the laptop, he should call him back or call GPD. He said he also told Green that if he did not feel comfortable looking at the laptop, he would come by in the afternoon. The SRO said he arrived at GHS later that day and went to Green’s office to look at the laptop, but Green said he had already given it to the site tech. The SRO told the investigator that he thought it was “odd” that Green would think it was important enough to call him, but then “when I got to the school he was acting like it was no big deal.”

Another GPD officer told the investigator that when an SRO is notified of inappropriate or possible criminal activity on a computer or laptop by a school official, the protocol is for law enforcement to review the computer and save the information for any investigation that may be warranted.

GHS Principal Diane Leinenbach said she spoke with Green after the call from the parent on July 20, and she recalled that he told her about a screenshot of a $1,500 check on the parent’s phone. She said that at that point, she contacted the Department of Children and Families (DCF) with Green present and filed a report.

Leinenbach also said she spoke to the site tech, who said Green “did not mention sexual harassment.” She said the SRO told her Green told him, “We may have porn on this computer,” the SRO said he responded that they needed to check whether it was “child porn vs. regular porn,” and Green said he would give it to the site tech. She said the SRO said Green did not mention human trafficking to him. 

Green’s lawyer objected to the process

Green was notified on July 22 that the district had begun a formal investigation because he “may have violated school board policy” and had been placed on administrative leave, and he and his attorney met with ACPS staff on July 26, although his lawyer sent a formal letter on July 25, objecting to the meeting because Green had not been provided with any information about the alleged misconduct. During the meeting, Green told staff that “he did not know, nor did he have reasonable cause to suspect that a student might be the victim of sexual abuse or human trafficking.”

Bryan Boukari, Green’s lawyer, told ACPS staff in the meeting that Green could not have known that the student might have been the “victim of some nefarious circumstances,” and that the people trained to deal with these situations, the SRO and site tech, were “not alarmed by the information”; further, the site tech did not uncover anything that concerned him. Boukari said the district appeared to be drawing conclusions from information not available to Green and that Green “acted prudently based on the information made available to and ascertainable by him.”

A letter from Boukari on August 1 pointed out that ACPS’ policy on Abuse, Abandonment, and Neglect requires that an employee must know or have “reasonable cause to suspect” that a student is the victim of sexual abuse or is involved in human trafficking. The letter said that Green did not have information about human trafficking but only about the student possibly being in “trouble for computer misuse.” The letter pointed out that ACPS employees only learned on July 20 that the girl had run away; at the time the parent met with Green, there was no indication that she was “the victim of some nefarious circumstances.” Boukari again pointed out that it seemed obvious in hindsight that potential harm may have existed, but that information was not available to Green at the time he received the laptop.

Investigations Review Committee finds probable cause for disciplinary action

The investigator’s report concluded that there was a discrepancy between Green’s initial and final statements regarding whether the parent had mentioned human trafficking and that the Investigations Review Committee would have to determine whether a preponderance of the evidence indicates whether it was more likely or not that Green violated school board policies in this incident. The board met on August 4, 2021, and found probable cause for disciplinary action against Green. 

By that time, the student had been found in another county, and GPD closed its case.

Boukari: all district employees should be concerned about the investigative process

Boukari sent ACPS a letter in response to the investigative report and asked that it be included with the report. He again asserted that Green’s due process rights had been violated and that Green had done exactly what the parent had asked: given the laptop to the site tech to review it for “any activity or information that may be cause for alarm.” Boukari pointed out that Green had immediately called both the SRO and the site tech, and that it was the site tech who did not examine the computer before re-imaging it. Boukari found it “implausible” that Green would not have told the site tech about the mother’s concerns, as the site tech claimed in his statement. He reiterated that Green did not tell the site tech to re-image the computer. Boukari further pointed out that the SRO gave contradictory statements regarding whether Green mentioned human trafficking and that the site tech said both that Green handed him the laptop and that Green never handed him the laptop. He said that if Green had been given the opportunity to question the witnesses, these contradictions would have been brought to light and possibly resolved.

Boukari further notes that “inconsistencies and flaws in the investigative process used by the District should raise serious doubts and concerns for anyone employed by the Alachua County School District” and that Green is “the latest unfortunate victim” of this “ill-conceived investigative process.”

Disciplinary actions

The letter of reprimand written by David Shelnutt, Executive Director of Human Resources, stated that Green “failed to appropriately respond to district protocol and procedures, by failing to make a mandatory report.” He was suspended without pay for 2 days and assigned Professional Development Training.

Green had been scheduled to transfer to a new position as Principal of eSchool in the summer of 2021, but instead, as a result of the disciplinary actions, he was reassigned to Manager, Special Projects for Curriculum. He has now been reassigned to Principal of Lincoln Middle School, effective July 1, 2022.

Statements from ACPS and Green’s lawyer

Jackie Johnson sent us a statement in the absence of Superintendent Shane Andrew: “[Mr. Andrew] believes Mr. Green is highly qualified to be the principal at Lincoln Middle School. Over the last 15 years, Mr. Green has served at multiple schools in a wide variety of instructional and administrative positions, including family liaison, teacher, dean, activities director and assistant principal. He’s also overseen magnet programs at the district level. That breadth of experience will be very valuable in his new role at Lincoln. Mr. Green’s appointment was also approved unanimously by the School Board.”

Boukari responded for Green and said, “The investigation illuminated that other District staff failed to heed Mr. Green’s request to investigate the contents of a computer and instead District staff wiped its contents.  Mr. Green became the scapegoat of failed and non-existent computer policies. Mr. Green is a dedicated and compassionate public servant who is eagerly looking ahead to the new opportunities that await him.  Mr. Green is excited by his new endeavor at Lincoln Middle School, where I know he will serve with great poise and distinction.”

  • There cannot be any doubt to this person’s integrity or character in that leadership position. More questions then answer in this incident. A complete and thorough investigation and a full report must be done.
    I would suggest he be assigned a desk job at the County office till this situation is concluded.

  • It sounds like the daughter was getting paid to chat with older men online. If she was clothed, it may not even be illegal. And she ran away (was not abducted by sex traffickers). The computer tech should have MADE SURE of the facts before wiping the hard drive – unless someone could have been extorting the ‘older men’ or there is some other strange twist to the story. Did that hard drive really get wiped or was it swapped out with a different fresh drive and taken home in a briefcase? Those are the questions I would be asking. It doesn’t quite add up.

  • If school laptops CAN be used for human, drug or sex trafficking, then we damn well know free GRU broadband and free public library WiFi mobile routers can as well. Especially in the very same school and voting precincts. So of course they sent the principal to Lincoln, brilliant! Demonics love making social problems fester and multiply, for their own perpetual gov’t job security. Next they’ll have Plan B abortion pill vending machines in schools, watch.

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