The Smithville School District is cooperating in a new investigation into the actions of former Smithville High School principal Rudy Papenfuhs despite its agreement with him to end the case.
Missouri officials have scheduled a hearing and are pursuing the potential revocation of the former principal’s teaching credentials.
The district had hoped to be done with controversy surrounding the popular principal when it reached an agreement with Papenfuhs last October. But the conflict was continuing even as the state began to pursue its complaint.
Papenfuhs filed a lawsuit June 19 that says the district violated the separation agreement in public statements that the principal says were defamatory.
Last October, Papenfuhs and the district issued a joint statement saying the principal had violated district policy when he crossed boundaries with students by doing things such as providing students with gifts, going to sporting events with students, sharing medication and allowing students to drive his car.
The principal agreed he would no longer challenge the district’s decision to remove him from the high school and the district would take no more action against him.
“We never had the intention of seeking the revocation of his credentials,” Smithville Superintendent Todd Schuetz said. “It serves no purpose for the district.”
When the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education earlier this year asked for the district’s records in the district’s complaint against Papenfuhs, the district declined, Schuetz said.
But the state, through Attorney General Chris Koster’s office, obtained a subpoena ordering the district to supply its records, and the district has now complied.
When the district removed Papenfuhs as principal in October, the principal requested a public hearing in front of the school board. The district set up the hearing in the high school auditorium and hundreds of students and parents came out, the most vocal majority of them in support of the principal.
But the principal and his attorney instead reached an agreement in a closed session.
Papenfuhs’ attorney, R. Mark Nasteff Jr., said that Papenfuhs has already provided the state with all the records the district had shared with him and that he will continue to defend his actions.
“Dr. Papenfuhs has nothing to hide,” Nasteff said.
Papenfuhs’ intent in his actions with the students was to support and encourage them to be better students, his attorney said. The district has not made any claims that Papenfuhs had inappropriate physical contact with students.
But Nasteff and Schuetz made public comments after the separation agreement had been made, and Papenfuhs says in his lawsuit that some of Schuetz’s comments were meant to discredit the principal and breached the agreement.
Schuetz said the district has not yet received the lawsuit.
The state’s complaint referenced admissions by the principal in his joint agreement with the district, including statements that he had provided a student with allergy medication, had a student on his cellphone plan, had attended a Chiefs game with a student without a guardian, drove students in his car, texted one student that he “loved” him and told a sexually explicit joke to students.
The state has scheduled a hearing Aug. 18 at 9 a.m. at the State Board of Education’s conference room in Jefferson City. The hearing is public.