The following is a release by the Bend-La Pine School District revealing the findings of its internal investigation after a convicted child sex offender was allowed inside High Desert Middle School on June 7.
OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDENT
520 N.W. Wall Street
Bend, Oregon 97703-2699
RE: High Desert Middle School Unauthorized Visitor Investigation Findings
July 15, 2022
On the morning of June 7, 2022, High Desert Middle School administration placed the school in SECURE after staff became concerned with behavior of an unauthorized visitor. Police responded and took Thomas Lee Bear (“Bear”) into custody. After Bear was taken into custody by law enforcement, Bend Police personnel notified Bend-La Pine Schools district office administrators that Bear had a warrant for his arrest and was a convicted sex offender. Additionally, Bend Police personnel shared that Bear had been admitted beyond the school’s secured areas.
At no time was Bear in the presence of students. Bear did not gain access to the main school hallways or classrooms.
As a result of this information, an internal investigation was launched by the district’s administrative team.
The district’s protocol during an internal investigation is to thoroughly review all available evidence prior to making any final determination. This evidence includes security surveillance footage; interviews with staff, administrators, and law enforcement; review of district communications regarding visitor protocols; and policy and training review.
The investigation found that within a few seconds of Bear’s arrival to the office lobby, he was escorted beyond the school’s locked doors to a staff bathroom in the administrative offices area.
Upon exiting the bathroom he was escorted back to the lobby, where he briefly sat in a chair.
At this time, it was reported that Bear appeared to be experiencing a medical emergency. Soon after, school medical support was requested.
Bear left the school as support arrived, only to turn and be escorted back to the lobby for evaluation.
Bear made his way out of the school’s front doors for a second time, a few minutes after his original arrival at the building. Building administration contacted law enforcement and made a public announcement that the school was in SECURE status. The school remained in SECURE status until Bear was taken into custody by law enforcement.
The district has completed the investigation and determined that allowing Bear beyond the secure entry of the school lobby without mandatory check-in on June 7, 2022 was a violation of district policy – Visitors to District Facilities (KK-AR).
The policy was violated because Bear was not asked to provide identification, nor was he asked what business he had at the school. Bear is not a parent or guardian of any one of our students and is not affiliated with any staff members.
The school’s administration and front office staff were also found to have allowed visitors to use the office restroom without proper check-in on other occasions over the course of several years, also in violation of district policy KK-AR.
Entry by the public into secure areas of our schools, without mandatory check-in, violates district policy, puts our school communities at risk, and is not acceptable. As a result of the findings of the investigation, district administration has addressed the situation with the appropriate staff. Each of these situations is specific to the staff’s role in the incident and we are not at liberty to share details as these are personnel matters.
The district uses progressive discipline when addressing personnel matters. Progressive discipline is a method of addressing personnel matters that uses graduated steps for dealing with issues of an employee’s conduct or performance who do not meet clearly defined standards and policies. Progressive discipline can range from a verbal reprimand to termination