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10-1-2014

Former Park Hill official under
fire at Smithville
Papenfuhs accused of misconduct

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor

According to allegations outlined by his superiors, an administrator in the Smithville School District who formerly worked at Park Hill has been a persistent offender of school policy, engaging in more than 16 acts of misconduct.

School officials are taking steps to terminate the employment contract of Smithville High School Principal Dr. Rudy Papenfuhs.

Papenfuhs just signed a contract extension over the summer.

With a laundry list of allegations of misconduct--some of them which occurred last year--recently brought to light by the superintendent of schools at Smithville, some parents of students may want to know why the head of the high school was allowed to continue working in the district if he violated a list of school policies set by the board of education.

Other parents and students say they are standing behind Dr. Papenfuhs.

According to a three-page document enumerating the 16 alleged violations of conduct, Papenfuhs persistently failed to obey school district regulations.

Papenfuhs was placed on paid administrative leave on Sept. 9, while the allegations against him are fully investigated.

Park Hill officials confirmed for The Landmark that prior to working in the Smithville School District,. Papenfuhs worked for the Park Hill district.

“He was an associate principal at Park Hill High School from 1985 to 1987. He went to another district, and then he returned as principal of Park Hill High School from 1992 to 1996,” said Nicole Kirby, director of communication services for Park Hill.

During his tenure at Smithville High School, Papenfuhs allegedly shared a sexually explicit YouTube video to a student, told “inappropriate and sexually explicit jokes” to a cluster of students, and made an inapplicable comment to a disabled student that implied the student was “touching himself through his pockets.”

But the violations that most recently landed him in hot water are allegation that Papenfuhs gave a male student an unidentified pill during the break of two consecutive school volleyball games on Sept. 4.

Eight days later, Papenfuhs allegedly handed a male student a medication prescribed to Papenfuhs.

“The student had the medication in his possession during the school day,” states the statement of charges against Papenfuhs.

Just last year, Papenfuhs was warned about maintaining appropriate relationships with the student body.

Superintendent Dr. Todd Schuetz says he issued Papenfuhs a formal write-up on Sept. 16, 2013.

Despite previous wrongdoings, Papenfuhs’s employment contract, legally binding him as a district employee, was signed and renewed on June 19 of this year.

The statement of charges released by the district also alleges that Papenfuhs neglected to respect physical and emotional boundaries with students. The high school principal allegedly “pulls certain students out of classes for an extended period of time on a regular basis for unexplained reasons.”

Also, the charges say Papenfuhs added a student to his cell phone plan, and sent a text message to a student stating “There is nothing I don't love about you…”
The school district allows faculty members to communicate with students electronically, but solely for educational purposes during the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

School policy also prohibits staff members for sending students on personal errands. Papenfuhs allegedly violated the board policy when he sent an unidentified student off school grounds to accomplish a personal errand in Papenfuhs’s registered vehicle.

The statement released by the district alleges that Papenfuhs purchased a vehicle for a high school student, purchased a hockey jersey for a student, and put a student on his own vehicle insurance policy.

“Dr. Papenfuhs has used material gifts and privileges he has bestowed upon students as leverage for encouraging certain behavior by the students,” according to the statement of charges.

Since the start of the school year, Dr. Papenfuhs has allegedly taken a student to a pre-season Kansas City Chiefs football game without the presence of the child's parent or guardian. The school principal also attended a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium with a student without the student's parents present.

Board policy prohibits staff members from meeting students outside of a school setting without the parent being present. On several occasions, Dr. Papenfuhs allegedly drove students to the gym and to scheduled doctor appointments.

“These instances exemplify not only Dr. Papenfuhs's persistent violations of board policies with respect to staff conduct and staff-student relations, but also exemplify his willful and persistent violations of Board Policy GBCB which requires him to follow directions given by administrators,” wrote Superintendent Schuetz.

School officials placed Papenfuhs on paid administrative leave on Sept. 9 and Schuetz has indicated he is continuing to pursue the necessary steps to terminate Papenfuhs’s employment in the district.

The Smithville School District issued a statement Wednesday, Sept. 24 in which it says: “The primary consideration in making district decisions remains the welfare of district students and staff. The district profoundly appreciates the support of the community, staff, and students during this difficult, yet necessary, process.”