School Board to consider whether to dismiss LaquaThe Jamestown Public School Board approved a recommendation to consider discharging a teacher facing two felony charges at a special meeting Friday.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
The Jamestown Public School Board approved a recommendation to consider discharging a teacher facing two felony charges at a special meeting Friday.
Richard Laqua, 54, a construction technology teacher at the James Valley Career and Technology Center, was charged on Nov. 8 with one count of sexual assault and one count of luring a minor by computer or other electronic means. He is accused of touching the buttocks of a juvenile girl over the age of 15 as well as sending her explicit text messages on Nov. 7. Both are Class C felonies.
Previously the district had suspended Laqua with pay.
Friday’s special meeting came after an investigation by Superintendent Bob Toso. Toso then recommended to the board contemplation for discharge. Legally Toso couldn’t share any information with the board unless it approved the recommendation.
“I could not send you out a lot of information about this meeting,” Toso said. “We can’t go into details beforehand. We have to come in here cold and that’s uncomfortable to you and that’s uncomfortable to me.”
Ken Dalsted, the district’s attorney, explained to the board that this meeting was like a probable cause meeting, and the board would have to decide whether to pursue more information.
“You’re basically saying you accepted Mr. Toso’s recommendation that there is enough information for you to consider at a hearing,” Dalsted told the board.
The board approved 7-1 the recommendation of a contemplation of discharge. Board members Tanya Ostlie, Gail Martin, Rosemary McDougall, Diane Hanson, Shelly Jystad, Greg Allen and Heidi Larson were in favor and Roy Musland was opposed. Board member Gary Peterson did not attend. He was excused by the board from the meeting because of his job with the Jamestown Police Department.
Musland said he feared that any ruling by the board could instill prejudice in a potential jury.
Jystad also had some concerns about acting as a jury, even though the motion that was made was only for the recommendation of contemplation.
“While you know all of the facts,” she said to Toso, “as a parent I know many things that a child reports to me at home that could be questionable behavior on a teacher’s behalf. I struggle with being the jury here at this point.”
Martin said the board should listen to the information that Toso discovered during his investigation.
“Our administrator knows the details, he wants to share them with us and we’re going ‘I don’t think we should know,’” Martin said. “The courts could take a year, they could take forever. My other concern is lawsuits against the district.
“This is just going to the next level so we can hear what the evidence is,” she said. “If we got an administrator that knows the evidence and is asking us to hear it, we have an obligation to listen to it.”
Allen agreed that the information should be discussed.
“Any board or district that’s presented with this situation in my opinion has to react to it,” he said.
Hanson wanted to clarify that the board just wanted to learn the information in this case.
“I think it needs to be clear that all we’re doing is asking to hear what has happened in this case,” she said.
After the motion passed the board went into executive session for about 45 minutes. Toso declined to comment what was discussed.
Dalsted said that if the board moves forward Laqua would be entitled to a hearing before a possible discharge in a closed session conducted by a judge appointed by the state. The evidence would then be presented.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at email@example.com