District responds to parents’ concerns

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

District  responds to parents’ concernsSierra Sands Unified School District officials have responded to concerns about a substitute teacher after a parent unearthed a history of complaints against a former temporary employee.

According to reports circulating through social media, substitute teacher David Whitley was accused of inappropriately touching an elementary-school-aged girl.

Although SSUSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. David Ostash said he is restrained from commenting on the nature of specific personnel complaints, he did acknowledge that the district recently took action following a concern.

“As we hope you know, student safety is among the district’s highest priorities,” Ostash said in a statement that went out to all parents in the district on Thursday. “We take seriously any concerns related to any form of conduct that is or may be harmful to any student.”

He further acknowledged in the message that the district hired a substitute earlier this school year. Immediately upon learning of concerns, the Whitley [not referred to by name in the statement] was put on administrative leave and is no longer employed by Sierra Sands.

“Although personnel matters are confidential, we can assure you that the district acted quickly and appropriately.”

Last week, an unnamed parent posted a concern on Facebook that Whitley, under the name David Allan Deshler, had faced accusations in other cities.

The original information was initially shared by Messenger and later turned into a public post that had been shared more than 350 times when this News Review went to press.

“A child was speaking to her parents and mentioned that Mr. Whitley has been messing with her hair and rubbing her neck at school,” states the post. The parents of that child reportedly contacted school and police officials immediately and also started researching the man.

The Facebook post included a link to a 2008 article of The Mountain Enterprise of California, which notes that Whitley (under the name Deshler) has been the subject of previous accusations.

Public records searches reveal that Deshler was convicted in 2004 for “interference with an educational institution/threat of damage to educational property” and “criminal trespassing.”

The case was appealed in 2005, and the previous conviction was overturned.

In 2007 a New Mexico grand jury indicted Deshler for “inappropriate sexual contact” with a seven-year-old girl. The prosecutor for that case dropped charges in 2008. A new indictment was opened, and those charges were also dropped.

Although Ostash declined to comment on Whitley or his history, he did clarify the district’s process for conducting background checks.

Typically any employee of SSUSD is required to provide fingerprint scans that reveal criminal backgrounds from the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Ostash said that hypothetically those background checks specifically screen for convictions — not necessarily accusations.

As of press time, a search on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing lists David Whitley as possessing two separate credentials clearing him to teach through July 2022.

The Kern County Superintendent of Schools also included Whitley on its list, circulated to county educational institutions, as a viable candidate for employment.

“Although the district has taken steps to ensure that all legal requirements are met when considering applicants’ backgrounds, we are always interested in analyzing new methods to improve its hiring practices to ensure that the best possible candidates are hired to serve the district’s students,” said Superintendent Ernie Bell.

Story First Published: 2019-04-12