Anoka Co. Teacher Investigated after Photos of Students Found on Computer

Updated: 06/18/2014 7:47 AM
Created: 06/17/2014 12:47 PM
By: Megan Stewart

A North Metro teacher is under investigation by the Anoka County Sheriff's Office.

David Harrell was a contracted teacher who worked with hearing-impaired students in St. Francis. He also worked for the Spring lake Park School District.

Authorities say St. Francis Interim Superintendent Troy Ferguson contacted them about Harrell's conduct with young students.

The 47-year-old was apparently seen with a young student on his lap, according to Commander Paul Sommer. Harrell was placed on leave shortly after and no longer had access to students.

The technology coordinator for St. Francis also found several thousand photos on Harrell's computer. Sommer says the coordinator thought some of the photos showed students in compromising positions.

The sheriff's office launched an investigation on May 15. Harrell was arrested for privacy interference but was released without charges.

The sheriff's office believes some of the photos may be criminal in nature, Sommer says. Detectives are in the process of locating and interviewing children in some of the photos.

Harrell was contracted out from School District 916, where he had worked since 1999 as an interpreter. He got his license in 2004 and started working as a teacher.

Connie Hayes, Superintendent for ISD 916, says Harrell went through the same vetting process all Minnesota teachers are subjected to, including a background check.

He is currently on paid administrative leave, Hayes says.

At this time, the investigation is not complete and no charges have been filed against Harrell.

St. Francis issued the following statement Tuesday:

Recently, we permanently removed David Harrell as a contracted service provider in our school district. He was contracted through Intermediate School District 916 and worked with deaf and hard-of-hearing students in our school.

Near the end of the school year, a concern about Mr. Harrell's professional conduct was reported to Intermediate School District 916 and, as a precaution, to the Anoka Sheriff's Department. Mr Harrell was removed from our district and a new deaf and hard-of-hearing teacher will be assigned to our schools by Intermediate School District 916 for the 2014-15 school year.

Mr. Harrell was arrested and released by the Anoka County Sheriff's Department pending the outcome of an investigation. We continue to cooperate fully with their ongoing investigation. While we have directly contacted a small number of families whose students may have been directly affected, we were asked by the Sheriff's Department to hold off on a broader communication until now in order to allow a thorough investigation to be conducted.

If you have questions about the investigation, please contact the Sheriff's Office directly at 763-323-5000. If you have additional concerns, please contact my (Acting Superintendent Ferguson) office at 736-753-7040. 

David Harrell
Photo: Anoka County Sheriff's Office

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