PHOENIX (KXAN) — A former principal that worked at numerous school districts in Central Texas was arrested in Arizona for allegedly trying to lure teenage girls online. Karl Waggoner, 59, was taken into custody Tuesday in Phoenix, where he is currently an elementary school principal.
Authorities in Phoenix say Waggoner posted an online ad for teenage girls to come out for a skinny dipping party at a pool in Scottsdale, Ariz. An undercover sheriff’s deputy responded to the ad, posing as a 14-year-old girl.
“He not only lured that teen in, he was explicitly sexual in his discussion with that teen and also exchanged explicit photos with that teen,” says Mark Lamb, Pinal County Sheriff.
Waggoner was arrested on his way into work. Waggoner had just started working as the principal at Four Peaks Elementary. The Apache Junction School District sent home a letter to parents saying they conducted a full background and criminal history check on Waggoner before hiring him and nothing turned up.
Waggoner’s prior work history in Central Texas stretches nearly two decades and spans three school districts, including the Austin Independent School District, Eanes Independent School District, and Round Rock Independent School District. He worked for Eanes ISD as an assistant principal at Hill Country Middle School, then was the West Ridge Middle School principal for eight years before becoming the Westlake High School assistant principal in 2012.
Waggoner then went to be an associate principal at Anderson High School in Austin ISD for one year before becoming the principal at RRISD’s Hopewell Middle School from 2014 to 2016. A RRISD spokesperson says Waggoner requested a reassignment in the summer of 2016 and was given a position at central administration as associate director of administrative projects. He left the district earlier this year.
“It’s just horrifying,” said a former Hopewell Middle School teacher, when he found out about Waggoner’s arrest. The man who doesn’t want to be identified said Waggoner spent a lot of time in his office. “Isolation, he was very withdrawn, he wasn’t really open with us like he said he was going to be.”
Eanes ISD and RRISD both said in a statement that before Waggoner was hired, he passed all criminal background checks. Eanes ISD also said, “at no time during his approximately 18 years in Eanes ISD was there any indication of inappropriate behavior with students.” However, as a cautionary measure, it is asking “any current or former students to contact Eanes ISD Human Resources if they have information that could lead to an investigation related to Mr. Waggoner’s time in our schools.”
In a letter to parents, RRISD also said the district has no indication that the suspect “engaged in inappropriate conduct with students while employed by Round Rock ISD or in his previous employment.”
But people are still raising the question, “Is there another victim? Did he even try to coerce another student,” said the anonymous former teacher.
Waggoner’s bond is set at $100,000. He’s scheduled to be in court Sept. 12.
A public school employee’s personnel file is public information for anyone who requests to see it. KXAN requested Waggoner’s from his time at AISD.
The file says he had no criminal conviction or arrest and had never been asked to resign. His references included Eanes ISD employees and a parent. The file showed Waggoner had 21 years of administrative experience, and 11 years of teaching experience under contract. Every time he moved school districts, Waggoner listed a promotion or professional growth as reasons for his move.
A new law just passed in Texas, aimed to tackle a problem known as “pass the trash.” That is where teachers move from district to district without anyone fully checking their backgrounds. Most school districts never ask for those public personnel files when they interview a job candidate.
The new law will make it a criminal offense for school principals and superintendents if they don’t report and investigate inappropriate relationships.The law requires school officials to complete an investigation of an educator if there is evidence that the teacher might have engaged in misconduct, despite the teacher’s resignation from employment before the completion of the investigation.
There is no indication there was a step missed, or that this law would have made any difference in Waggoner’s situation.
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