Dakota County Investigates St. Paul Schools

Updated: 06/23/2014 9:31 PM KSTP.com By: Jay Kolls

They reviewed initial reports and now investigators in the Dakota County Attorney's Office are conducting a full investigation into the St. Paul Public School District. 

Prosecutors want to know what St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) officials knew and when they knew it about alleged child sex abuse reports involving former school custodian Walter Happel. Happel has been charged with eight counts of child sexual abuse and some of those include students at a St. Paul middle school.

State law requires professionals, who work with children, to report suspected cases of child abuse within 24 hours.  If they fail to do so, they can be charged with a misdemeanor on a first offense and a gross misdemeanor on a repeated offense.

Police reports indicate St. Paul School officials were alerted to possible sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by Happel against students in 2011 and again in 2013.  But, so far, there is no indication that SPPS officials, or anyone connected to the school where he worked, notified St. Paul Police in a timely manner.

Dakota County agreed to review the case and now investigate what happened because the Ramsey County Attorney's Office wanted to avoid any possible conflicts of interest, or the appearance of a conflict.

The case is still open so the Dakota County Attorney and SPPS officials are not commenting until the investigation is completed. Happel resigned from his custodial position at Linwood-Monroe Arts Plus Middle School last February. 

The attorney for Happel also declined to comment on the Dakota County investigation.