Iowa school official who allowed sex offender to volunteer keeps his job

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Mackenzie Ryan / The Register

The superintendent of an eastern Iowa school district who allowed a convicted sex offender to volunteer in schools will keep his job.

The Mid-Prairie school board voted Monday to offer superintendent Mark Schneider a contract for the 2018-19 school year. The board also will form a committee to revise the district’s volunteer policies.

The school district came under scrutiny for allowing Trent Yoder, a former teacher convicted in 1998 of felony exploitation of a minor, to volunteer as a chaperone on student field trips and build sets for high school plays.

Yoder admitted in court that he filmed a high school student changing clothes in a bathroom at the Anita elementary school where he worked. 

Multiple former students raised concerns about Yoder’s volunteer work in an April 26 Des Moines Register article. 

Some of those students addressed the Mid-Prairie school board Monday night in Wellman, according to Cedar Rapids television station KCRG. 

“He worked with the spelling bee at our school and some of us participated in that, and he would pull you out of class and ask you to try on a spelling bee shirt,” KCRG reported Nicky Bauer-Kemper saying.

Yoder has coached a spelling bee club in recent years that had used the Mid-Prairie name and practiced in Mid-Prairie schools. 

PREVIOUSLY: 

Schneider granted special permission for Yoder to volunteer after his application was initially denied due to the felony conviction. 

Yoder was required to register for 10 years on the state’s sex offender registry. His name was removed from the list in 2008.  

Trent Yoder, then 28, was booked in jail in May 1998. (Photo: Cass County Sheriff’s Office / Special to the Register)

Yoder wrote a letter to the Mid-Prairie community in which he denied filming any other students while teaching in Anita. The letter ran in the Kalona News.

“I am ashamed to say that at the time, I considered what I was doing the equivalent of a college prank,” he wrote. “I intended to video a high school volleyball player who was trying on an athletic bra, then show the tape to someone else as a joke.” 

“I do not mean to minimize what I did,” he wrote. “I acted alone, and it was extremely thoughtless and unempathetic.” 

In 1998, a Cass County judge sentenced Yoder, then 28, to the maximum 10-year sentence. The prison sentence was later reduced to 1½ months, and he served four years of probation.  

Since 2015, with his children enrolled in public school, Yoder volunteered to chaperone elementary school field trips, be in classrooms and build sets for four high school plays. He was required to have another adult present while volunteering in the schools.

Yoder has said he will not volunteer for the remainder of the school year. It’s unclear if he will be allowed to volunteer in Mid-Prairie schools next fall. 

His spelling bee club is no longer allowed to use the Mid-Prairie name or meet in the schools. 

In a statement after the meeting, Schneider thanked the school board and offered a goal to foster “social and emotional student learning.”

“Mid-Prairie can become a role model for conflict resolution and trauma-informed care for our students suffering traumatic events, but it will take the same cooperative and collaborative efforts by everyone,” he said. 

RELATED: Search Iowa’s sex offender registry 

 

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