Teachers with Criminal Pasts Licensed by State Board

November 21, 2017 09:40 AM

Samantha Kay Medcalf was stopped with more than 200 pounds of marijuana in a car she was driving, according to police in Iowa.

Kevin G. Busko was convicted of domestic assault and violating a protection order.

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Henry Edward Tyler was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after he embezzled more than $160,000 that was supposed to feed low-income students in a Wisconsin school.

All are currently teaching children in the Twin Cities.

They are among 14 teachers and a school social worker identified in a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation who are currently licensed by the Minnesota Board of Teaching despite having criminal pasts involving sexual misconduct, violence, drugs and theft. At least seven of those teachers are currently working in classrooms.

Look up teacher discipline records here

A state lawmaker and former teacher says she is outraged over those findings, adding that the board’s judgment was already in question after a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation in September found the board has previously failed to report allegations of sexual misconduct involving teachers and students to law enforcement.

"Just when you think it can't get any worse with the Board of Teaching, new information emerges,” Rep. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury, said. “This is outrageous.”

Samantha Kay Medcalf

Samantha Medcalf is licensed to teach math through June 2020 and is currently listed as a faculty member at Parnassus Preparatory School in Maple Grove.

In 2009, Medcalf was arrested after police found approximately 236 pounds of marijuana in her rental car, according to a Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s report.

She pleaded guilty the following year to possession of drugs with intent to deliver and received a deferred judgment, according to board records.

Board documents show Medcalf had her court record expunged after she completed probation and paid a fine.

Medcalf failed to disclose the matter to the board until she tried to renew her license in June 2012.

The board initially refused to renew her teaching license, stating that “a teacher cannot serve as a role model when they have 236 pounds of marijuana in their possession.”  

In 2015, the board reissued Medcalf’s license on condition she have no criminal convictions. Through her attorney, Medcalf declined to comment.

Kevin G. Busko

Kevin Busko’s teaching license was temporarily forfeited after he was convicted of domestic assault against his former spouse in 2001, according to a board document. That record shows he pleaded guilty to violating an order of protection later that same year.

In 2002, Busko’s license was reinstated after the board determined that he was “fit to teach,” according to the board’s records.

Busko did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

He currently teaches second grade and special education at Life Prep Academy in St. Paul, according to the school’s website.

Henry Edward Tyler

Henry Tyler currently teaches special education at the Hmong International Academy in Minneapolis. He pleaded guilty in 2011 after federal prosecutors found he had stolen taxpayers’ money “earmarked to provide low-income children ... with free breakfasts, lunches and snacks” at a school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In his plea agreement, Tyler admitted he wrote checks to himself, his wife and “cash,” and spent a portion of the money while in Las Vegas.

Tyler initially denied any wrongdoing when asked recently by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS to explain why he embezzled the money. He later admitted in an email: “I regret the choices I made ... that led to misuse of funds at my previous school. Since then, I have worked hard to correct my past mistakes and make better decisions. I’m grateful to the Minneapolis Public Schools for giving me a second chance and allowing me to learn from my experiences.”

A district spokesperson said Tyler’s "... prior issues have no impact on his work as a dedicated teacher."

Tyler was denied an “educator” license in Wisconsin after his felony conviction. The Minnesota Board of Teaching initially denied him a license in 2013. However, the board reversed course three years later and issued Tyler a license. “Tyler understands any further criminal convictions will result in the automatic revocation of his teaching licenses,” the board stated.    

Alex Liuzzi, the interim executive director of the Board of Teaching, says he cannot comment on specific cases due to privacy laws, and did not respond to multiple interview requests.

In a statement, Liuzzi wrote the board considers “the seriousness of the crime, when it occurred, and whether the incident is an isolated event or if there is a pattern of conduct” when it decides which teachers are issued licenses.

Under state law, teaching licenses are automatically denied for certain convictions including child abuse, sex trafficking and child pornography.

That same law gives the board discretion to deny or revoke a license if a teacher’s behavior constitutes “immoral character or conduct.”

RELATED: State Board Failed to Report Teachers Accused of Sexual Misconduct

John J. Lewis

The board decided not to take any disciplinary action against John J. Lewis in 2002 even though it knew Lewis had entered an Alford Plea to fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, according to board records.

The Alford Plea meant the elementary teacher admitted there was enough evidence for a jury to find him guilty. In a 2001 Benton County criminal complaint, two women accused Lewis of “fondling” and assaulting them while they slept. As part of the plea agreement, a judge dismissed the case two years later after he met the terms of his probation.

Lewis, who lives in Woodbury, declined to comment on his criminal past. It’s unclear whether he is currently teaching in a classroom, but his license has been renewed three times since 2002. He is currently licensed to teach students with severe special needs through June 2019.

“Where is the common sense?” Fenton asked after learning details of the cases examined by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. She said she plans to introduce legislation to keep teachers with similar criminal pasts out of the classroom.

“If there’s any shadow of a doubt, then the license should not be given,” she said.

Senior Investigative Producer Tim Vetscher and Investigative Producer Erik Altmann contributed to this story.

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Joe Augustine and Eric Chaloux

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