Spokane teacher disclosed existence of prior misconduct investigations before district hired him, records show

click to enlarge Spokane teacher disclosed existence of prior misconduct investigations before district hired him, records show
Young Kwak photo
A teacher was hired at Shadle Park High School after multiple investigations at prior school districts.
Spokane Public Schools knew that a teacher hired to teach special education in 2016 had prior allegations of misconduct, according to records released by the school district.

In June, the Inlander detailed how former Shadle Park High School teacher Michael Henry was investigated for sexually harassing an employee and for using excessive force and inappropriate language with students at Mt. Spokane High School. He was later given a written reprimand for calling a student a derogatory name at Riverside School District. Still, he was hired by Spokane Public Schools, but he resigned this year after a controversy over how one of his students was repeatedly put into an isolation room where she harmed herself.

When the Inlander asked Spokane Public Schools spokesman Brian Coddington earlier this year if the district knew of the separate allegations against Henry from Mead and Riverside school districts, Coddington said "no."

But records given to the Inlander by Richard Pope, a parent of one of Henry's former students, reveal that the answer isn't really that simple. Henry had disclosed that he'd been put on paid administrative leave at Mt. Spokane High School in 2015 during the application process. A question on one of the application forms asked if Henry had ever been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of misconduct with any employer, and Henry marked "yes," adding that in March 2015 he "was put on paid administrative leave on allegations by two of my former para-educators that I violated Right Response protocols. No disciplinary action was taken."

There was no mention of the investigation of sexual harassment, nor the written reprimand at Riverside School District. It is true that no disciplinary action was taken at Mead School District as a result of Henry allegedly slamming a student into a wall and calling him an "idiot," though it should be noted that Henry took a job at Riverside School District before the investigation was finished. The Mt. Spokane High School principal, Darren Nelson, wrote a letter of recommendation for Henry.

Coddington, the Spokane Public Schools spokesperson, now tells the Inlander that the school district only knew what was presented in the application documents before hiring Henry in 2016. The district apparently had no knowledge of the extent of the allegations beyond what was disclosed by Henry.

"What we had is what you saw there in those documents," Coddington says. "We weren't able to get more information."

Coddington says getting more information would have required making a public records request of Henry's former employer, and the district did not make that request before he was hired.

In Spokane, Henry taught at the Autism Behavior Learning Environment (ABLE) classroom at Shadle Park High School. This past school year, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction found the district in violation of isolation guidelines because Pope's daughter was repeatedly put in the isolation room — more than a dozen times between May and December 2018 — even though she had shown a pattern of harming herself while in there. In the midst of a Spokane Public Schools investigation of Henry, he resigned at the end of the school year.

Henry is the husband of Katy Henry. Katy Henry was the president of the Spokane Education Association, the local teachers union, until earlier this week, when she resigned from the position to take a job with the larger state teachers union, the Washington Education Association. 

Open Studio at The Hive @ The Hive

Wednesdays, 4-7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 22
  • or

About The Author

Wilson Criscione

Wilson Criscione is the Inlander’s news editor. Aside from writing and editing investigative news stories, he enjoys hiking, watching basketball and spending time with his wife and cat.