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Principal Messaged Girl About Spanking—and Kept His Job

Propublica and Alaska media outlets look at the case
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2020 4:30 PM CDT
Updated May 17, 2020 6:47 AM CDT

(Newser) – Even after his arrest by the FBI on charges of possession of child pornography, attempted coercion of a child, and sexual abuse of a minor, Gladys Jung Elementary Principal Christopher Carmichael was depicted in a positive light—by the head of the Alaska school district that had employed him. "Please be aware that Carmichael had been an incredibly popular principal ... and had a solid reputation," Lower Kuskokwim School District Superintendent Dan Walker wrote in a statement for the story, a joint effort by Anchorage Daily News, KYUK public radio, and ProPublica. That arrest came in December, but the media outlets—which note Western Alaska has a sex assault rate six times the US average—found that parents complained to Bethel police about Carmichael at least twice over the four years prior.

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In one instance, he messaged a 14-year-old former student on Facebook, commenting on her "naughty ways" and referencing spanking her; he told investigators he had impaired judgment due to medication he was on but had learned his lesson. Though investigators found no grounds to charge him, such "sexually charged behavior" is grounds for suspending or revoking a school administrator certificate; that wasn't done. In 2018, a mother called police to say her 11-year-old told her Carmichael had touched her breast; he said it was accidental. In neither case was the school board notified by the district, even though the district put Carmichael on paid leave during the investigations. When a 7th-grade former student told police in June 2019 that Carmichael had been touching her breasts and giving her family presents, among them a king-sized bed, they didn't go to the district a third time—they went to the FBI. (Read the full story to learn about the sting that followed, after which police say he admitted being sexually attracted to kids.)

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