A West Fargo elementary school principal has resigned after an investigation found that he was having sex on school grounds with a staff member who directly reported to him.
Legacy Elementary Principal Jason Markusen resigned from his position Friday, March 9, the day after the school district launched a formal investigation.
According to the investigation report received by The Forum on Thursday, March 16, West Fargo Public Schools received an anonymous letter last month reporting an inappropriate relationship between Markusen and the staff member.
District officials conducted interviews regarding the letter but could not substantiate the initial claims, the report said. On March 2, school officials received a report of similar allegations on March 2, and another investigation ensued.
Custodian Walked in on Markusen and Staff Member, Found Used Condom in Trash
A custodian reported to the district that they walked in on Markusen and a staff member on Feb. 28. According to documents, the custodian was doing laundry and heard noise coming from upstairs, which surprised him because he didn’t expect others to be in the building.
The custodian stated he unlocked the door to go upstairs to the storage room and saw Markusen in his underwear hiding behind some furniture. The custodian said there was another person in the room, which he later identified to be a female para at the elementary school. The para is identified as CS in the investigation report.
The investigative report stated Markusen later approached the custodian holding a yoga mat and stated he had been exercising in the storage room. This was peculiar to the custodian, as he stated the storage room was packed with furniture and other items, so there wouldn’t be any room to exercise.
The same custodian previously found a used condom in the trash while changing the liner of the trash can in Markusen’s office, the report said.
Markusen, Staffer Seen Entering Storage Room on Surveillance Footage Multiple Times
While going through surveillance footage, district officials found that the para and Markusen went upstairs and into the storage room together, and they weren’t seen again on any school cameras for about 45 minutes on Feb. 23.
The para came back later that same afternoon, according to investigative findings, and video footage shows her and Markusen again go up to the storage room. Officials then reviewed video from the previous virtual learning day, Feb. 15, which documents say a similar pattern was found.
Documents say the para and Markusen are shown on video that day going to a utility room together in the morning and again in the afternoon, both times for about 20 minutes.
When Markusen was asked about what he was doing in the storage room, he said he was there mostly alone, despite the video evidence, and that he had done some inventory of flexible seating and practiced “dancing” the report said.
The report Markusen eventually admitted to school administrators that he sent inappropriate messages to the staff member, but denied having sex on school grounds. Markusen did not have an explanation for the used condom found in his garbage can.
Documents state the para “will be terminated due to dishonest responses” during the investigation, as well as for engaging in inappropriate conduct while at work. The name of the staffer has not been released.
School Board Recommended Markusen’s Termination Following Investigation
The investigation, which was performed by Superintendent Beth Slette, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Schools Rachael Agre and Human Resources Director Brittnee Nikle, returned a recommendation that the School Board fire Markusen with cause.
“Additionally, CS will be terminated due to dishonest responses provided during the investigation, for withholding relevant information and engaging in inappropriate conduct while on work hours at the work site,” the recommendation said. The School Board accepted Markusen’s resignation at its Monday, March 13, meeting.
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