ENID, Okla. — Enid Public Schools administrators are accused of having "obstructed justice" in a notice of claim from an Oklahoma teacher's union representing now-former campus police chief Mike Dods.
The Oklahoma Education Association claim, sent to EPS Wednesday, alleges district and school administrators "directed Officer Dods to hide acts of violent student conduct and student threats on multiple occasions."
Administrators attempted to coerce Dods by making threats and taking punitive actions against him, the OEA states in the claim.
The Notice of Claim and Request for Hearing names Superintendent Darrell Floyd, Assistant Superintendents Doug Stafford and Randy Rader and Enid High School Principal Dudley Darrow.
Enid Public Schools released a statement regarding the allegations and the notice of claim on Thursday.
"There is nothing more important to Enid Public Schools than the safety of our students and staff. It is our greatest priority, and we would never compromise it," district spokeswoman Amber Fitzgerald said.
"Because this is a personnel matter, we are unable to discuss the specifics of the situation. I can share that we have worked in every possible way to ensure all state and federal laws, as well as the district’s employment contract and policies, have been followed and will continue to be followed."
Several alleged incidents involving students, administrators and Dods are recounted in the OEA document, spanning from May to as recently as Oct. 19.
In one instance, Dods came to EHS Principal Darrow with concerns about a student with a "history of threatening behavior" who was subject to a court-issued "no-contact" order, according to the claim. Dods aired "concerns that the perpetrator was violating the ‘no-contact’ order and would continue to violate (the order), traumatizing the victims and presenting a serious continuing threat to student safety."
According to the claim, Darrow responded that Dods was to "under no circumstances" arrest the student in question and that if he did so he would be fired.
The student had at different times in the past threatened to harm multiple female students, and Dods, through his own investigating, determined that incidents of stalking and assault also occurred, according to the claim.
A janitor reported that the student had been asking questions about the layout of the high school, how to access the roof, how to bypass certain locks, all of which made the janitor who reported the behavior "suspicious that the student was planning something violent," the claim states.
Following his meeting with Darrow, Dods was called in to meet with Assistant Superintendent Stafford to discuss the student. During the meeting, Stafford told Dods "not to report any criminal violations to the district attorney" and that EPS administration would handle the matters instead, according to the claim.
On Oct. 19, Dods was called into a classroom where a child, "whose family had close ties to the school administration," was wielding scissors and threatening to kill students and staff, according to the claim.
After addressing the situation, the claim states that Dods looked further into the issue, discovering similar incidents had happened before and that they had never been reported to police. Dods decided to pursue charges, but Darrow and assistant superintendents Stafford and Rader stepped in, telling Dods not to pass his findings along to the district attorney and that "(administrators) controlled whether or not criminal charges were filed against any student."
According to the claim, Superintendent Darrell Floyd stepped in as well "and made it clear that if Officer Dods filed the report, he would be fired."
Dods met with the assistant district attorney to explain the predicament, and was encouraged to file his report, according to the claim. He decided to file and was threatened soon after by assistant superintendent Rader that if he did not "drop the charges" he would be fired. Dods replied that it wasn't in his power to drop the charges at that point and even if it was he would not do it.
The assistant superintendent promised Dods there would be consequences, the claim states.
Following through, the district demoted Dods from his position as schools chief of police, and placed him on a "plan of improvement." His demotion was conducted without notice or hearing, according to the document. Soon after, school administrators tried to seize the police computer, which contained evidence for use in ongoing investigations.
However, "Officer Dods had secured the laptop to ensure that the chain of custody required for prosecution was maintained, and he explained that to the administration," the OEA claim said. "A few days later the superintendent suspended Officer Dods and sent him a termination notice."
Among the multiple claims leveled against EPS administration are demotion without due process, termination in retaliation for reporting violent student conduct and damages to reputation.
Dods has requested a hearing, wherein he will go before the school board to determine if he will be reinstated or if he will ultimately be fired.
A civil suit is also being considered, according to Heath Merchen, the attorney representing Dods.
"It's my understanding from Officer Dods that if he is reinstated to the chief position and granted assurances that there will be no further interference in his enforcement of the laws and reporting to the district attorney, there wouldn't be any problem, and I'm hopeful that is the stance the district will arrive at," Merchen said.
Merchen posted the notice of claim on Facebook on Wednesday, stating that the OEA was looking to drum up support for Dods as things proceed.
"I am writing asking those reading this to show support for Officer Dods, a career law enforcement officer who is facing retaliation for preventing and reporting violent criminal acts; doing his job and doing it well."
The post went on to say, "I'm asking that if you know Officer Dods or are a part of the Enid community, you show him your support and reach out to him so he knows that he does not stand alone."
Regarding the notice of claim, EPS said administrators had not received it.
"We have not yet received the correspondence/claim from Mr. (Dods') attorney that has been released on social media. If and when we do, the district will grant his request for a due process hearing with the Board of Education, where thorough and accurate information about the district’s concerns can be shared as well. The notice letter to Mr. Dods setting out the cause and the underlying facts for his termination is a confidential document until the due process hearing; however, if Mr. Dods will sign a release, the district would be able to provide the notice letter to the media," the statement said.
"In the meantime, we will continue to partner and work closely with the Enid Police Department, who is assisting the district with school safety-related needs. We greatly appreciate their support of our students and our staff."