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Some upset with how Colleyville church school handled indecency allegations

The announcement of Joel McClure's resignation from Crown of Life Lutheran School in early May was more likely to draw congratulations than concern.

"Joel has secured a summer job experience that requires him to leave on May 24," staffers were told in a Weekly Update e-mail sent by Principal Tim Walz on May 6. "In order to transition toward and prepare for that job, Joel has resigned from his position here. We thank Joel for his work here and wish him well in his summer employment."

Staff members and parents at the Colleyville school would learn more than a month later that McClure, an extended-care worker, had resigned after an 8-year-old student alleged that McClure had exposed himself to her dating back to 2008.

The 23-year-old Bedford man has since been charged with indecency with a child in that case, as well as in the case of a 6-year-old student who says McClure fondled her.

Some criticize the school's handling of the matter -- first misleading staff members about the reason for McClure's resignation and then keeping parents uninformed even after his arrest. Several parents have pulled their children from the school.

"I can't tolerate things being swept under the rug," said Jennifer Robertson, who withdrew her two sons. She said McClure had twice substituted in her 2-year-old son's preschool class, including once watching the boy after school for hours when no other adults were around.

Lisa Mowry, whose daughter was also watched by McClure a couple of times, said it wasn't the allegations against McClure but what she described as "blatant lies" by the principal and pastor that sent her looking for a new school.

"If it was just Joel McClure, I could go back because he's not even there now," Mowry said. "It's the school's response. That's my issue. That's why we can't go back."

The church's pastor, Dave Jung, referred all questions to attorney Cary Dorman, who is serving as spokesman for Crown of Life.

Dorman denied that church or school officials had lied but said the church and school have acknowledged that "they were not as timely as they should have been in communicating that information and offered an apology to the entire church community."

"The staff, along with the entire church community, is devastated with these events," Dorman said. "There's a great sense of sorrow but also a resolve to improve their policy so that there will be a more effective and more timely communications with parents in the future."

Dorman said a task force of parents and staffers has been created to develop more concise and responsible school policies and protocols. He invited parents concerned that they had been lied to or misled to join it.

Colleyville police continue to investigate McClure but said no additional accusers have surfaced. McClure was released from the Tarrant County Jail on Monday after posting $50,000 bail.

He did not respond to a message seeking comment.

E-mails to parents

On May 6, the principal met with a Colleyville police sergeant to discuss allegations by an 8-year-old student that McClure had exposed himself to her. That's the same day Walz sent the e-mail to staff about McClure's resignation.

Though McClure was arrested May 21 on a warrant alleging indecency with a child/exposure, parents were not informed of any alleged wrongdoing until a June 14 e-mail from Jung and Walz. The e-mail did not name McClure or mention his arrest.

"In early May we were made aware of possible inappropriate actions by an extended care worker with one of the students. Out of concern for all of our students, the extended care worker was asked to resign and the worker complied with that request," the e-mail stated.

Because of the nature of the concerns, the e-mail continued, the school had notified the Police Department, which had opened an investigation.

"We continue to monitor and cooperate with the authorities as the investigation continues. If further important details come to light, we will inform you. Throughout this situation we have tried to respond with care and concern for all of those involved, following the guidance of the Police Department and our District Office."

Disturbed by the e-mail, some parents took to the Internet. On localnewsonly.com, they learned that McClure had been arrested the previous month.

"My daughter was in direct contact with him," said one woman, whose 3-year-old daughter had been supervised twice by McClure. "They never told us who it was. We had to do our own research."

The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she quickly withdrew her daughter and son from the school.

"I get that they couldn't say anything [initially] because it would jeopardize the case, but once he was arrested on May 21, I feel they should have notified parents," she said.

Mowry and Robertson said they took their concerns directly to Walz and Jung and were told that Colleyville police had instructed the school not to release information earlier or give more details.

Officer Raymon Cannon, a Colleyville police spokesman, said the department "informed the school in mid-May that parent notifications needed to be made."

Cannon said police later made a second request of the school to release more specific information because they deemed that the initial notification given to parents June 14 was too vague.

On June 17, Jung and Walz sent a third e-mail to some of the parents.

This time, it named McClure and the charge against him and addressed the concerns about the timing of their communications to staff and parents.

"We believed at that time that we were following the correct procedures based upon the guidance that we had been receiving, but it is now clear to us that it would have been better if we had communicated the information that is public record at the time of the arrest," the e-mail stated.

The e-mail went on to state that the pastor and principal "are reviewing our procedures and correcting any deficiencies so that we will provide better communication in the future" and that a parent meeting to address questions would be held June 22.

'Maintain confidentiality'

It was at that meeting that parents received even more upsetting news.

McClure, who had been free on bail, had been arrested again June 22 on an indecency warrant alleging that he had also fondled a kindergartner.

Some parents asked why the church and school didn't inform them about McClure earlier. One even asked police, also at the meeting, whether they had told the school not to share the information with parents.

When the police answered no, Mowry said, she knew that she would have to find a new school and church for her family.

"With all the cover-up and lies, it just feels like we can't go back. We could have gotten over the rest of it, but the lies and initial cover-up of this is the insult," Mowry said.

Dorman said that when the allegations were first raised and passed on to authorities in early May, Colleyville police had asked the school to "maintain confidentiality."

"I think they were trying to comply with the request from the Colleyville Police Department and the direction they were receiving from the district office of the Lutheran Church in Austin," Dorman said.

Dorman said he is not aware of when that request for confidentiality was lifted. Because of the second allegation against McClure, Dorman said, the church and school may have "believed they were still supposed to be maintaining some kind of degree of confidentiality at the request of the Police Department."

DEANNA BOYD, 817-390-7655

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