The hidden cameras found at Madison East High School were in a room where students with disabilities changed and in a coaches’ office in the boys locker room, a police report shows.
Madison School District Superintendent Carlton Jenkins told parents in an email Tuesday night that the cameras, which were hidden inside smoke detectors, were installed in violation of district policy in an attempt to catch a custodian suspected of sleeping on the job.
Evidence of the cameras’ presence was found in January, but the cameras were active for about a two-week period in 2019 and removed in June 2020. It does not appear the two cameras were ever used to view students, but were instead focused on monitoring the custodian.
Madison police found no crime had been committed, but an internal district investigation led by a local law firm continues.
The Madison Police Department’s investigation of the incident, obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal, sheds more light on when and where the cameras were installed, and how the footage was used. The details of the investigation, which is now closed, were first reported by Isthmus.
One of the cameras was aimed at a cot located in the coaches office, and the other at another cot in room 127, which was used to work with students with disabilities, according to the report.
There is no known existing video file from either camera, district spokesperson Tim LeMonds said.
The district’s electrical engineer, Joe Anderson, who was in charge of the cameras but has since retired, told police the cameras were angled to show just the cots, and that a viewer wouldn’t have been able to see anyone getting changed on the video.
That appears to be true at least for the camera in the coaches’ office. In the police report, a photo of the office that appears to show a couch — which is where the camera was aimed — does not show any area of the boys locker room.
For room 127, East High Principal Brendan Kearney told police the cots were located in the room for when the students with disabilities needed to have their diapers changed. The students also sometimes use room 127 to change clothes, but the video did not show the whole room.
‘Never saw’ students
It’s unclear if students were ever recorded with the cameras, but even if that did occur, it seems the footage had not been viewed by anyone, according to the police report.
Anderson told police just three people had access to the camera footage: himself, retired district security director Joe Balles and building services assistant supervisor David Kapp.
Both Anderson and Balles said they never looked at the videos.
Kapp was tasked with going through the footage because he was the custodian’s supervisor. Kapp told police he only looked at the times between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. because that’s when the custodian worked.
“Kapp said he never saw anyone but the custodial employee on the video, and he never looked at any video that had been recorded in those two rooms during the day as he had no reason to,” Det. Julie Johnson said in the report.
The video also would have been overwritten in 10 days or so, multiple district staffers told police.
After a few days of monitoring the custodian and failing to catch him sleeping inside the school, Anderson told Kapp he could stop going through the recordings because it seemed like “a waste of time,” Johnson reported. Within about two weeks, the cameras were disconnected but kept in place in case they wanted to use them again, Anderson said.
District electrician Luke Frame said, at this point, the cameras would have had a live feed, but in order to access it one would have needed the IP address and password, which Anderson deleted. The cameras were no longer recording.
Jenkins said the cameras were fully removed in June 2020. A hollowed-out smoke detector was what was found Jan. 8.
The incident has no apparent connection to the criminal case against former East High School business and marketing teacher David M. Kruchten, who is charged with transporting seven minors to Minnesota with the intention of creating child pornography and attempting to create child pornography by using hidden cameras in 2019.
The cameras were initially installed in the fall of 2019 after the custodian was caught sleeping in his car that September. The police report does not identify the custodian.
Frame set up the two cameras inside of hollowed-out smoke detectors. Frame said he thought the request “was odd,” but he did what he was told.
“It was a super-secret install,” he told police.
It is against school policy to install hidden cameras without authorization from the superintendent, and is always against policy to install them in a locker room.
Anderson said he got permission from Human Resources manager Heidi Tepp to install the cameras, and the intent was for school staff to be unaware of the devices. Kapp said they also got permission “from legal.”
Jenkins said the request and approval to install the devices “should never have occurred.”
“We are disheartened by the additional stress this situation has caused,” Jenkins said. “We will continue holding the safety of our students and staff as our highest priority.”
LeMonds declined to comment on whether there has been or will be disciplinary action for those involved in installing the cameras or for the custodian suspected of sleeping. He said the district does not discuss personnel matters publicly.
Jenkins said the district will update the school community when its internal investigation concludes.
Weekend re-reads: Check out these Wisconsin State Journal stories honored in state newspaper contest
Weekend re-reads: Check out these Wisconsin State Journal stories honored in state newspaper contest
The Wisconsin State Journal collected 10 first-place awards in an annual contest put on by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, including recognitions for general excellence, all-around photography and the opinion pages.
State Journal staff also won eight second-place finishes and 12 third-place honors in the association's Better Newspaper Contest, which evaluated content published between Sept. 1, 2019, and Aug. 31, 2020.
Photographer John Hart took home three individual first-place wins for the feature photo, artistic photo and photo essay categories, while photographer Amber Arnold earned first for a general news photo.
Emily Hamer was awarded the Rookie Reporter of the Year distinction and also won first place for extended coverage on the return of state pardons. Higher education reporter Kelly Meyerhofer earned first place in local education coverage.
Re-read the State Journal stories that won first, second and third place in this year's Better Newspaper Contest.
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