Hilliard City Schools leaders are preparing to "proceed with employment action" against a teacher placed on paid administrative Dec. 17 after being accused of posting an "inappropriate" link on a student-course website, according to a letter sent to Hilliard Davidson High School parents Feb. 4.
Correction: Hilliard Davidson High School teacher Shawn Parsell was placed on unpaid leave Feb. 3 after being on paid administrative leave since Dec. 17. In an earlier version of this online story, the Hilliard City Schools erroneously had confirmed Parsell still was on paid administrative leave as of Feb. 4.
Hilliard City Schools leaders are preparing to "proceed with employment action" against a teacher placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 17 after being accused of posting an "inappropriate" link on a student-course website, according to a letter sent to Hilliard Davidson High School parents Feb. 4.
Davidson principal Aaron Cookson wrote in the letter provided by the district that "new and unrelated allegations were raised about inappropriate behavior."
The Franklin County Municipal Court Clerk's website lists an open case filed against Davidson teacher Shawn M. Parsell, 46, on Feb. 4.
The charge filed by a Hilliard Division of Police officer is for sexual imposition against a victim "13/14/15 years old," according to the court entry. The charge is listed as a third-degree misdemeanor, and his arraignment is scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 18, in municipal court.
"The charge stems from one incident, and there are no more charges expected at this time," said Hilliard police spokeswoman Andrea Litchfield.
The incident reported by a 15-year-old victim occurred Oct. 15, 2019, at Davidson, according to the police report. The report narrative said the "subject reported they were assaulted while at listed location."
A court complaint included in the police report alleged Parsell "did touch the thigh" of the 15-year-old, and the report redacted the gender of the victim.
He was arrested by Hilliard police Feb. 3 at the Joint Safety Services Building in Hilliard, according to the report.
Cookson's Feb. 4 letter addressed the criminal charges.
"We moved swiftly to address these new allegations and worked cooperatively with the appropriate local authorities," Cookson wrote. "Mr. Parsell has remained on leave.
"We now know that criminal charges have been filed about this new matter, and we are taking this very seriously, as we do all such allegations. We intend to proceed with employment action, which means we must act in a way that is consistent with our contract with the teachers union and applicable state and federal laws.
"At Hilliard City Schools, student safety is always our highest priority, and we share your concerns about this isolated situation. Whenever someone makes a credible accusation about any kind of inappropriate activity, it is our obligation to respond. That process includes conducting a thorough investigation to determine the validity of such claims, caring for the students and families involved and engaging our community partners and other local authorities as needed."
Parsell, a Hilliard resident, had been on paid administrative leave since Dec. 17, according to Cookson's Feb. 4 letter.
Stacie Raterman, the district's director of communications, said Parsell's current salary is $94,793. His benefits are valued at $34,871.03, she said.
She said Parsell was removed from paid administrative leave Feb. 3 and placed on unpaid leave.
"There is no specific timeline, although we are working with our lawyers to get this taken care of as quickly as possible," Raterman said.
She said district leaders could not elaborate on anything more at this time.
The school board is scheduled to meet Monday, Feb. 10, and "employment action regarding Shawn Parsell" is listed on the agenda after an entry for an executive session.
"While I have not seen the letter sent by Principal Cookson, employment actions outlined in the negotiated agreement are aligned with state and federal laws in regards to due-process rights," Mary Kennedy, president of the Hilliard Education Association, said in an email. "Our contract does not lay out a timeline for employment action."
Kennedy said Parsell has denied the allegations.
"While student safety is always our highest priority, we believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty," she said. "Mr. Parsell denies the allegations against him, and the Hilliard Education Association will advocate on behalf of its member to ensure that he receives all of his due-process rights."
ThisWeek has been unable to reach Parsell for comment during his leave, which began Dec. 17 after “an inappropriate link was put into one of our Canvas courses for some students," Cookson said in a message to parents at the time.
Canvas is a learning-management system used by the district.
The nature of the “inappropriate” link was not revealed by the district, but a parent sent ThisWeek a recording of a student navigating the Canvas app on a smartphone. The video records curriculum modules being accessed in a world-studies class labeled “Parsell,” and one of the links titled “French Revolution” leads to what appears to be an external pornographic website.
The link immediately was removed and blocked through district filters, Cookson said in his Dec. 17 message.
The link was brought to the attention of the district by a student, he said.
Parsell was reassigned to Davidson for the 2019-20 school year in April as a social-studies teacher, according to district records. He has worked for the district for more than two decades, according to his personnel file.
Dec. 17 was not the first time Parsell has been placed on paid administrative leave.
On Feb. 8, 2018, Superintendent John Marschhausen had sent a letter to Parsell, informing him he was placed on paid administrative leave and directing him “to remain off school grounds.”
A letter from Marschhausen to Parsell on Dec. 19, 2017, also advised Parsell he was placed on paid administrative leave and directed him to remain off school grounds and to not have contact with students or staff.
Parsell was a teacher at Bradley High School prior to Davidson and served as the girls volleyball coach at Bradley, according to district records.
In a Jan. 23, 2018, email to Cort Hamilton, Bradley athletics director, Parsell wrote "the administration decided to go another direction" with Bradley’s program and “effective immediately I am no longer the head coach.”
District records also indicate that Parsell on Feb. 25 entered into a “last-chance agreement” signed by Parsell, Marschhausen and Kennedy.
The agreement said Parsell “engaged in inappropriate and unprofessional conduct toward a student who is transgender by directing the student to change clothes even though the student had not violated the student dress code” and threatened to call the student’s parent.
The agreement said Parsell denied making the comments but entered into the agreement “to resolve the differences” with the district.
The agreement also indicates Parsell’s paid administrative leave was converted to an unpaid suspension and further stipulated that if Parsell “engages in any further misconduct of any kind,” the school board “shall have the right and just cause to terminate his employment.”
Check ThisWeekNEWS.com/Hilliard for updates to this story.
ThisWeek staff writer Kevin Corvo contributed to this story.