Norris, LSO address concerns surrounding investigation into alleged teacher-student relationship
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - While school is out at Norris High School, Tuesday night parents showed up for an emergency meeting about the arrest of a former teacher who is alleged to have been in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student.
It was revealed at that meeting that the teacher, 23-year-old Lillie Bowman, who is charged with sexual abuse by a school employee is the one who first raised the alarm bells on herself.
Norris administrators said on April 6 Bowman told them a student was spreading rumors that she was having an inappropriate relationship with a senior student.
Assistant Principal Dr. Kristyn Jones said Bowman and the 17-year-old denied the rumor was true. From there Jones said she tracked down the student who was said to have started that rumor. That student allegedly told Jones they heard it from an adult in the community who didn’t know if it was true, but thought it wasn’t.
Jones said at that time, she told the student if the rumor wasn’t true and they kept talking about it they could get in trouble, but if they knew anything else to let her know.
Jones told the School Resource Officer, who works for the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, about the rumor but said that it was unfounded.
Five weeks later, on May 18, Bowman was arrested.
Parents at Tuesday night’s meeting are asking for more accountability.
“To have a glaring lack of judgment like this warrants very harsh discipline,” said Eric Pillard a Norris parent.
One of the concerns hit on in the meeting was that administrators conducted the investigation and not law enforcement.
“In 2023, simply talking to students is not adequate at this point for a threat or a situation that’s come to light in this magnitude,” Pillard said “Definitely needs, warrants further investigation.”
This is one thing that Chief Deputy Ben Houchin with LSO said the school could have done differently.
“If it’s a major crime...I think the best thing would be to start with us,” Houchin said. “And then we can go from there.”
Another concern among parents, and board member Aaron Wubbels, was how a student who was reportedly spreading the rumor about the relationship was treated.
Wubbels and administrators said the student was threatened with discipline.
“We tell our children, talk to an adult and so when it’s something this serious where’s the line that we look at go instead of threatening discipline we should dig deeper into this,” Wubbels.
That question was met by applause from Norris parents.
Administrators said at the time, they didn’t think the rumor was true based on an interview with Bowman and her victim, and the student who the district said started the rumor.
“It was communicated to that student like if you have additional information, and you make sure that you come and talk to adults,” said Nate Seggerman, Norris High School Principal. “But if what you’re saying is, is not true. And what you’re saying could be causing harm. And you know, that’s not true, then you shouldn’t be doing that.”
Some weren’t satisfied by this answer, especially as court documents said during the time of this investigation the rumor was true, the district just didn’t know it.
“This is very clearly the administration made a determination of who was at fault,” Pillard said. “They let it go, they made their decision. And it turned out to be very wrong.”
Board members encouraged community members to share suggestions about how they make changes, including internal changes like calling law enforcement first and external changes like changing state statutes to include teacher-student relationships on the list of crimes that have to be mandatory reported by all adults.
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