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Valley Home - School Chief Due In Court
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The arrest of Valley Home Joint School District Superintendent/Principal Kevin Hart on suspicion of child molestation has been fraught with mystery and suppression of information, including to interested parties of the school system itself.
   On July 6, shortly after 3 p.m., Hart was arrested by the Oakdale Police Department when the investigating officer saw Hart leaving the Stanislaus County Superior Courthouse in Modesto. Since Hart was under investigation for child molestation accusations at that time, the decision was made to arrest him and take him into custody.
   Hart was booked into Stanislaus County Jail for lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 and engaging in multiple acts of substantial sexual contact with a child under 14. Hart posted bail later that evening. He has a pending court date of Aug. 5.
   The sheriff’s office declined to give further information about the booking, including the bail amount, referring inquiries to the District Attorney.
   Oakdale Police Lieutenant Lester Jenkins said he was the one who investigated the incidents and made the arrest of Hart leaving the courthouse.
According to Jenkins, a child therapist — who is obligated as a designated “mandated reporter” under state law­ ­— reported the molestations to a patrol officer the week prior to Hart’s arrest. Because of staffing issues in the department’s detective bureau, and the sensitivity of the accusation, Jenkins personally conducted the investigation.
   “The investigation showed to me that the acts occurred and I made the arrest,” said Jenkins.
   Lt. Jenkins declined to state specifically what sexual acts occurred or if the victims were family members or students. He said he’s also been instructed to have any additional information about the case come through the District Attorney’s Office.
   On July 12, Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said she had not yet seen the case file or the police report from the Oakdale Police Department. On Monday, July 18, Shipley said the case required some additional investigation and she would have more information and may be able to comment later in the week.
   A check of Stanislaus County Court records shows Hart and his wife, Sandy Hart, both of Oakdale, going through divorce and child custody proceedings that were filed June 24. A temporary restraining order against Hart was also issued at that time and renewed on July 5 after a hearing.
   When an attempt was made by The Leader on July 13 to view these public records at Stanislaus Superior Court, the family law clerk stated the records were not available.
   When asked when they would become available, the clerk responded, “I’ve been told to tell you they’re ‘unavailable.’”
    On July 14, a Valley Home School District staff member said that Hart was taking “personal time” off and it was unknown when he would return. The staff member said Hart was not on any administrative leave or leave of absence, but the time off was of Hart’s choosing.
   The California Education Code requires that when a school district employee is criminally charged with a sex offense, that the employee be placed on a mandatory leave of absence.
   When contacted on July 14, Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon stated he was unaware of Hart’s arrest or if he had been placed on any leave status.
   Changnon later said he contacted the Valley Home School legal staff and they were also not aware of any change to Hart’s status.
   “You have more information than we do,” said Chet Quaide, attorney for Valley Home Joint School District. “This is bizarre when I’m hearing about this from a reporter.”
   Quaide added that occasionally just an arrest doesn’t warrant a person being placed on leave but it would be mandatory if the district attorney files charges.
   “During the summertime, without an imminent need, it’s unknown if we need to do this right away,” Quaide said.
   A check with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing on July 18 showed no actions on Hart’s current credential despite a regulation requiring employing school districts to report allegations of criminal misconduct, including sex crime charges, within 10 days of the district learning of them.
   Valley Home School Board Member Don Taro said he had no comment about Hart’s arrest or his status. He declined to discuss any actions the board had planned. Other board members did not return calls.
   On Friday afternoon, July 15, Valley Home Joint School District Board Clerk Heather Duvall announced that a special meeting of the board had been called for Tuesday, July 19 to discuss Hart’s status. The meeting was scheduled past The Leader’s press time on Tuesday.
   “Keep in mind only an arrest has been made and no charges have been filed,” said Duvall when contacted. “We will do everything to take care of our children and school district.”
   In 2008, Hart replaced Michael Brennan as Superintendent/Principal of the 160-student district. The district has two school sites in close proximity to each other, one that serves students in kindergarten through third grades and the other that serves students in grades four through eight.