SPRINGFIELD (AP) — An Oregon high school principal had sexually abused a student for years, but officials failed to uncover the assaults despite suspicions raised by parents and faculty members, according to police and school documents.
Springfield police launched an investigation in late January after an Academy of Arts and Academics teacher alerted school officials to an overheard rumor of a sexual encounter between Principal Mike Fisher and a student, The Register-Guard reported.
The Springfield School District placed Fisher on leave on Jan. 31. He killed himself the next day.
The teacher told police that she had suspicions about Fisher for years and led police to a former student. Police interviewed the former student, who said the abuse began when she was 14 years old and continued into her adulthood.
The victim told police that she had not previously talked about the abuse with anyone.
In 2007, a student told her mother of uncomfortable interactions she observed between Fisher and her friend, including inappropriate touching and car rides. The parent told a teacher and a report of suspected abuse was filed with the district.
Roger Jordan, the district's former human resources director, interviewed Fisher about his interactions with the girl.
Fisher denied any inappropriate behavior, giving explanations for the touching and car rides. He described the student as "clingy," according an audio recording of the interview. Fisher was later directed to not transport the student in his car.
A police officer was also informed of the possible inappropriate behavior, but police did not investigate at the time.
District officials were made aware of the possible inappropriate relationship between Fisher and the former student again in 2015, according to the school documents obtained by the newspaper through public records requests.
Jordan told police last month that former Superintendent Nancy Golden instructed him in 2007 to not to investigate the allegations.
Golden on Wednesday denied that claim.
"I never directed, asked, or in any way suggested, that Mr. Jordan refrain from any investigation related to Michael Fisher," Golden said. "Any statement or suggestion that I did so is entirely false."
In a statement Thursday, district officials said they responded as soon as they learned about the allegations against Fisher.
"Current district leadership have made it clear: We will always place student safety over the comfort of adults in having hard conversations," spokeswoman Jen McCulley wrote. "It is this leadership's expectation that we have difficult conversations that may be uncomfortable when any concerns arise, rather than jeopardize the safety of any student."
Springfield police are continuing their investigation.