Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson receives Escambia County School District investigator on loan for multiple charges made by female employees in sexual harassment case.
Okaloosa County School District Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson has enlisted help from Escambia County to investigate an employee accused by several women of harassment.
One woman claims Stephen Hall, presently employed at Choctawhatchee High School, has been following her and making “unprofessional/vulgar comments” for eight years, from the time she was a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) member at Edwins Elementary School.
In an Oct. 3 email plea to school district officials for help, the woman states Hall was transferred from Edwins to Choctawhatchee after she became a full-time volunteer at the high school.
“Knowing what actions I have seen from him I was extremely concerned finding out Steve is now an employee at Choctawhatchee High School,” the woman said in her email.
The actions referenced include “comments made … in reference to my body and parts of my body, the way my clothing may fit certain areas of my body or his requesting to take photos of me,” the email said.
Jackson sent an email to an Okaloosa County School Board employee on Oct. 11 requesting that board members be notified “we are investigating an employee on sexual harassment allegations.”
The email also states Jackson has “chosen to go to an outside investigator” and “the Escambia County superintendent has loaned me his investigator.”
The investigator will be meeting with Hall and the parent who has filed the charges, the email states.
Efforts to reach Hall for comment were not successful.
Pattern of allegations
Hall’s actions have been a cause for concern among educators since at least 2014, when he was the in-school suspension paraprofessional at Edwins Elementary, records show. A report filed by the then-school resource officer in March that year indicates even she felt victimized by Hall’s words and actions.
The SRO went to then-Edwins principal Marline Van Dyke to report “three different incidents of where Hall had spoken or done something unprofessional with staff in the past three days.”
The allegations included one from a school nurse who complained of being called “baby, sweetie, sugar and hon,” and touched inappropriately.
“She said Hall was making inappropriate advances toward her,” the SRO’s report said.
Following a meeting with Hall, at which no disciplinary action was reported to have taken place, another report came in that he had a "DVD or movie" in his classroom “displaying a half-naked woman on the cover.” The report said Hall kept his room locked even when students were present and hung a black drape over an office window.
After the item's presence was made known, Van Dyke and Hall engaged in a physical altercation as he tried to prevent her from confiscating it, the report said. He then stormed out of the building, leaving children in his classroom.
Then-school district official Kaye McKinley and a sergeant from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office were ultimately summoned to the school, the report said.
Leaves Edwins for Choice High
Information obtained by the Northwest Florida Daily News indicates Hall left Edwins Elementary after the March incident and was moved to Choice High School. There, a school district investigative report filed Dec. 11, 2014 confirmed inappropriate conduct/sexual harassment allegations against Hall. The district took disciplinary action, but Hall was nonetheless allowed to transfer within the school system to Choctawhatchee High School.
According to the investigative report, initiated by a female teacher at Choice High, Hall would look (the teacher) "up and down" and refer to her as "Baby Girl." Student witnesses confirmed in the report that Hall would use the term "Baby Girl" in referring to the teacher.
The report also noted that Hall insisted that "she listen to some music that contains explicit sexual lyrics."
What action the school district took against Hall wasn't noted, but the report recommended disciplinary action, that a copy of the findings be placed in his permanent personnel file and that he be transferred to another work site.
The woman who emailed the district on Oct. 3 seeking help said she had talked to now-suspended school district investigator Arden Farley after Hall began frequently approaching her in the front office at Choctawhatchee High School.
“I have had to call Mr. Farley on multiple occasions because he (Hall) continued to approach me in the front office,” the woman wrote in the email. “Currently he continues to try to communicate inappropriately with me at the football games or on campus, school events.”
Farley advised Hall “he needed to be more aware of his actions,” the email states.
The woman said efforts to contact Steve Chatman, the Okaloosa County School District’s working investigator, through another school official had been unsuccessful.
Second major investigation
The current allegations against Hall join a number of criminal investigations within the school district concerning alleged child abuse.
The Daily News first reported Friday that four Okaloosa County School District employees were placed on administrative leave this week pending the results of child abuse probes involving the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office and Department of Children and Families.
Personnel involved were from Walker Elementary in Crestview, Elliott Point Elementary in Fort Walton Beach and Destin Elementary. The Sheriff's Office has reported that the case involving a teacher's aide at Walker Elementary was closed, while the other three remain active.
In addition, three current or former school district employees face charges following a Sheriff's Office investigation into a 2016 case of alleged child abuse involving special needs students at Kenwood Elementary.
Former Kenwood special education teacher Marlynn Stillions was arrested Sept. 13 and charged with four counts of felony child abuse without great bodily harm. Former Kenwood principal Angelyn Vaughan and Farley, who investigated the case, have been charged with multiple counts of felony failure to report child abuse. That case, which remains active, is now being led by the First Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office.