Crime

De Soto superintendent says he didn’t know school nurse in sex case was fired before

When the De Soto school district hired Richard Finazzo as a school nurse, the superintendent didn’t know the man had been fired by a school 15 miles away because of suspicions he had inappropriate contact with a student.

“We do background checks and reference checks and if we had any idea of a suspicion of inappropriate conduct with students he would not have been hired,” Superintendent Frank Harwood said Tuesday.

In October, just over two years after he was fired from Gardner-Edgerton High School, Finazzo resigned from his post as the nurse at De Soto High School while under suspicion for the same conduct, according to criminal charges filed against him last month.

Last month Finazzo was charged in Johnson County District Court with two counts of unlawful sexual relations with a minor.

The affidavit filed in support of his arrest detailed his alleged sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl who told police she started seeing him at school for help with anxiety and depression in August.

In both cases, prosecutors said, Finazzo claimed he was the victim of a “double standard” that would not apply to female nurses.

An affidavit filed with the charges includes interviews from a number of other female students at DeSoto High School who say Finazzo made sexual comments and sometimes touched them inappropriately when they visited his office.

The DeSoto High School principal brought this conduct to the attention of law enforcement in October when it was brought to his attention, according to court documents.

“The district took the appropriate actions nine months ago when we had a suspicion and we acted on the suspicion,” Harwood said. “We take student safety very important.”

Harwood said that when Finazzo was hired, he was not aware that Finazzo had been fired by the Gardner-Edgerton district, and as a result did not know why Finazzo was fired.

Harwood told The Star he also did not know if the district contacted officials at Gardner-Edgerton.

“I wasn’t part of the hiring process,” he said.

Those involved in the hiring process, Harwood said, would not be able to provide details.

“We wouldn’t give specific information about a particular personnel situation,” he said.

Harwood said that the district is dependent on what the applicant and their references provide them when doing reference checks.

He did not believe that the officials who hired Finazzo knew he had been fired.

“I don’t believe that they would have been (aware he had been fired by Gardner-Edgerton),” Harwood said. “If there would have been any suspicion that he had inappropriate contact with a student he would not have been hired.”

The Gardner-Edgerton school district did not respond to the Star’s request for comment in time for publication.

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Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.
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