Brevard County school security chief stands by controversial report

By Chris Evans

School District Security Chief Jack Sidoran knows his investigation contains conflicting sto­ries and rumors of Karen Roberts’ sexual relations with students months before police were called.

But Sidoran also is sure that Assistant Principal Ken Gaslin was the only educator to act improperly in the Roberts case at Merritt Island High School.

Sidoran said that while others might have heard allegations against Roberts, only Gaslin learned of students’ claims of sexual involvement with the teacher but failed to tell a supervisor.

“The scope or this investiga­tion was narrow,” Sidoran said. “It dealt specifically with who knew what about Miss Karen Roberts and her physical sexual activity with students.”

During the investigation, Si­doran reviewed hundreds of pages of court testimony, took sworn statements from more than a dozen educators or stu­dents and conducted small group meetings with 72 teachers at Merritt Island High.

He determined that three educators—Coach Michael Hill, Dean Marvin Gaines and Gaslin—heard or a student’s claim of being sexually involved with Roberts. Of those, Gaslin was the only person to do nothing, Sido­ran said.

Other talk or Roberts’ activities centered on a discussion between teacher Margaret Mu­drak and a student who allegedly told of sexually charged conver­sations between Roberts and students, Sidoran said.

That discussion did not deal with sexual acts, and thus did not fall within the narrow scope or the investigation, Sidoran said.

As for conflicting stories in the investigation—such as when top school officials learned or allega­tions against Roberts—Sidoran said most discrepancies can be blamed on faulty memory.

For example, Mudrak said she told Assistant Principal Wil­liam Dugan of her concerns about Roberts in early February, then spoke to Principal Henry Smith soon after.

However, Dugan denied he ever spoke to the teacher about Roberts, and Smith said his conversation with Mudrak took place in mid- to late March, not early February.

“I had a little problem with that,” Sidoran said. But “these statements are from memory of incidents which occurred over two years ago. The preponder­ance or their collective memory puts it closer to March.”

The investigation concludes that Smith could not have known about Roberts’ sexual activities before Aug. 25, 1994, the date police charged Roberts—five months after all other school administrators and School Dis­trict officials learned or Roberts’ actions.

Sidoran defended his conclu­sion. He said a letter from Brevard Assistant State Attorney Meryl Allawas cleared Smith of any knowledge before that date.

The letter, written Aug. 31, 1995, states that Smith never testified that he knew of ”students claims” about Roberts “well before police arrested Roberts.”

“Furthermore,” Allawas wrote, “in all the investigation and preparation this office con­ducted prior to the trial, there was never any indication what­soever from any source that Mr. Smith was ever made aware of nor had any hint or this partic­ular situation existing.”

The letter clears Smith, Sido­ran said. However, the security chief said he never spoke to Allawas to verify his interpreta­tion or her letter.

Allawas said she was not sure how Sidoran could have reached his conclusion from her letter, but she would want to review her files before commenting further. She since has failed to return telephone calls.

This story appeared Nov. 7, 1995, in Florida Today.


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