Union superintendent disciplined by Iowa BOEE

Written reprimand, educational course part of disciplinary order

Union Superintendent Travis Fleshner pictured during a Union school board meeting on Feb. 21, 2022. – Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

During the April 22 Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE) meeting, the likely final chapter was written in a series of events surrounding the Union Community School District’s investigation of a former middle school teacher – with the written reprimand of outgoing-superintendent Travis Fleshner who is set to assume the superintendent position at Aplington-Parkersburg beginning in July.

The Telegraph previously reported in March of 2021, that a teacher within the Union district was being investigated for emails exchanged with students.

Less than a month later on Monday, April 5, 2021, Union’s board of education accepted a resignation agreement for middle school science teacher Mark Hookham. According to Fleshner at the time, the resignation was related to an internal investigation regarding emails exchanged with students.

On March 3, 2021, the Iowa BOEE received a complaint against Fleshner alleging a violation of the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics governing the teaching profession.

During the June 25, 2021, Iowa BOEE meeting, the board found probable cause to proceed to a hearing.

In an August 2, 2021, Statement of Charges, Fleshner was charged with two counts by the Iowa BOEE including:

1) failing to make reasonable effort to protect the health and safety of the student or creating conditions harmful to student learning, in violation of 282 Iowa Administrative Code rule 25.3(6)(c).

2) failure of an administrator to protect the safety of staff and students, in violation of 282 Iowa Administrative Code rule 25.3(6)(s).

An initial investigation by the Iowa BOEE resulting from that complaint found Fleshner failed to timely and appropriately respond to alleged misconduct by a district-employed teacher upon a young female student and therefore failed to make reasonable efforts to protect the health and safety of the students and created conditions harmful to student learning.

A later investigation revealed Fleshner did perform an investigation “consistent with the advice of counsel.” The investigation also confirmed that the district’s Chapter 102 procedures – which involve the “charging and investigation of incidents of abuse of students by school employees” – were consistent with expectations.

It is required by Iowa Code that school boards of both public and private schools adopt policy and procedures for handling child abuse reports.

Final Order

After waiving his right to a disciplinary hearing before the Iowa BOEE, Fleshner and the State entered into a settlement agreement in lieu of the contested case hearing that had been set for early May.

The Iowa BOEE approved the settlement and entered its final order on April 22.

While Fleshner did not admit to the violations identified under the two separate charges, he acknowledged the allegations – if proven in a contested case hearing – would constitute grounds for the discipline settled upon.

As part of the Final Order, Fleshner was reprimanded for the charged conduct in violation of the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics governing the teaching profession.

Fleshner was further ordered to successfully complete within one year an educational course on allegations of child sexual abuse and grooming and assume the costs for such course. Failure to complete the course in the time allocated will result in immediate suspension of his license until completed.

Fleshner was also ordered to review both the circumstances surrounding the complaint that led to the case and the expectations surrounding Chapter 102 investigations with W. Scott Dryer with the Iowa Dept. of Education. Dryer is listed as a school business operations consultant on the Iowa Dept. of Education’s website.

Finally, Fleshner was ordered to pay the fees associated with the processing of the complaint against him in the amount of $447.99.

Fleshner’s name will be added to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Educator Identification Clearinghouse which is the national collection point for professional educator disciplinary actions.

Additionally, the statement of charges, settlement agreement, and final order from the BOEE case file was added to Fleshner’s permanent licensure file and is available for public inspection.

In a statement released this past February by the Aplington-Parkersburg Board of Education ahead of Fleshner’s contract approval, the district confirmed their support for Fleshner’s hiring, stating: “We understand we may hear concerns about hiring [Fleshner] based on public articles citing questions and criticism about how the claim against one of his Union teachers was handled, however what has been posted on social media and promoted on the Change.org petition is not factual and is slanderous toward Travis Fleshner. [Fleshner] has 100 [percent] support from the board and the administrative team and we look forward to him joining our community and leading our district.”