Special education TA accused of sending nude photo to student - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Special education TA accused of sending nude photo to student

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Just last week, St. Paul public school officials got an earful from parents of Linwood Monroe Arts Plus students after a janitor was accused of peeping. Now, details of more alleged misconduct are emerging.

As is the case with Walter Happel -- the veteran custodian who resigned after 30 years with the district, the second employee to face accusations of inappropriate conduct involving a student is no longer employed at the school; however, beyond a vague letter referencing "inappropriate communications" sent to parents on Feb. 12, details were few and far between.

Fox 9 News has obtained police reports that shed new light on why former special education teacher- aide Mark Cooper was terminated while he was still in his probationary period.

Cooper was fired less than two weeks after he started as a teaching assistant. He also taught basketball skills to boys and girls after school and helped out with the boy's basketball team, but that was before a student claimed Cooper sent her a nude photograph of himself after he had gotten out of the shower, according to police reports.

Police documents further allege that Cooper made comments about the student's leggings and butt, and had asked her to find a secluded place where the two could kiss.

However, police reports show the accusations of misconduct didn't end there. A total of three female students -- aged 11, 13 and 14 -- accused Cooper of inappropriate communication, police say.

One student told police Cooper tried to get her to send an "R-rated" picture of herself over Facebook, and a special education student accused him of asking her to send him a selfie while wearing her pajamas via Snapchat -- and police say that student is considered a vulnerable adolescent.

When Cooper was confronted by school officials, he denied the allegations, but the district released him for misconduct.

Officers did investigate the claims; however, since Cooper allegedly sent the nude picture over Snapchat, it disappeared after 10 seconds and they closed the case due to lack of evidence. Investigators said that although the contact between Cooper and the student was inappropriate and violated school policy, it wasn't a crime. Even so, the case has been forwarded to the Department of Education, which will conduct its own investigation.

On the website for the Rum River Storm girl's basketball club, Cooper is listed as the coach for high school players -- but he may not be for much longer now that the reason he lost his job has come to light.

Fox 9 News spoke with Cooper by phone on Thursday night, and he denied the allegations and pointed out that he was never charged with a crime. Meanwhile, St. Paul Public Schools say he passed a background check when he was hired.

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