Temporary custodian arrested for alleged sexual misconduct

Alleged incident occurred after normal school day

November 10, 2015

Senior Brenda Hernandez said she has always felt afraid of being at school after the school day, but now she said she feels even more scared of the school after hearing about the custodian arrested recently for sexual misconduct.

“I think I read it somewhere on Facebook. Someone posted it and I was like ‘what?’ I was a little surprised. I couldn’t believe it,” Hernandez said. “The school should be more careful about who’s working.”

Fasel Mohamed Ali, a custodian hired by St. Louis Park Public Schools through a temporary work agency, was arrested for nonconsensual sexual conduct at the high school.

The victim called the police at 10:30 p.m. Oct. 9 after Ali alledgedly asked her to let him into the locker room to find his cell phone, and then proceeded to touch her in a sexual manner, according to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office report.

Additionally, Ali’s criminal records include two other misdemeanor charges in Minnesota, including second-degree driving while impaired (DWI) and assault in the fifth degree.

From multiple states’ public records, including California and Arizona, Ali was also charged with six prior DWI’s and arrested for a felony motor vehicle theft in Phoenix.

Upon arriving at the school, police officers found Ali hiding in the locker room shower, arrested him and currently have Ali in custody.

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First response

Principal Scott Meyers said his first reaction after hearing about the incident was to ensure student and staff safety.

“I wasn’t directly involved because of the timing of the incident, because it was after school hours and not when students were here in session. I obviously have the staff and the students in mind to make sure they’re safe,” Meyers said.

In the future, Meyers said he hopes the district continues to ask questions about employment and incident procedures.

“I think the steps right now are asking the questions that need to be asked. Any employee that comes to St. Louis Park has a background check, so we would just continue to ask questions surrounding the situation, but also thinking about future ones,” Meyers said. “My questions right now are, for the time being, ‘do we know that our students are safe?’”

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Asking questions

Tim Sension, freshman grade level coordinator, said he doesn’t believe the school or the district did enough to ensure the safety of the school regard- ing the background checks and hiring of employees.

“To know that we have people who have, first of all, not gone through background checks before they’re here is very concerning to me,” Sension said. “I know that the (school’s) argument will be that (the custodians) are here after school and not when students are here, but there are kids here until 10 p.m. every night. So I don’t think that’s a valid excuse.”

According to Command Center’s website, all employees must pass a drug test and a background check. The district requires a criminal history background check of all district employees within the schools. In the case of a temporary agency, like Command Center, the district may choose to do an additional background check of the temporary employees or rely on the background check done by the company.

Sara Thompson, director of communications for St. Louis Park Public Schools, said in a Nov. 3 statement, the district evaluated its relationship with Command Center, and is currently using the district’s custodians to cover the lack of staff.

“We have evaluated our contract with the janitorial service in question and have terminated our temporary janitorial service with them,” Thompson said. “On the district level, we have tightened up our temporary janitorial service guidelines. Currently, we are using our own custodians to cover temporary janitorial service needs.”

Additionally, Sension said Command Center employees were allegedly still at Park until the last week of October. Command Center’s branch in Hopkins said employees were last at the high school Oct. 23. Thompson said the company was not working at the school the week following the incident.

According to Minnesota Recovery Connection, an organization aimed at helping recovering addicts, Command Center is seen as a “felon friendly” company and pays an average of $7 an hour for employees. Sension said he was aware Command Center is a company known for hiring felons, and said he believes the district only used the temporary agency because of its low costs.

“I have a friend in the same industry and he kind of laughed when I mentioned that we used Command Center,” Sension said.

Thompson was unavailable to comment on these claims.

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Future steps

Thompson said, in the future, the district will use substitute custodians and will now require all employees from outside companies to undergo background checks done by the district. A job listing for substitute custodians can be found on the district’s hiring site, with the hourly pay at $14.

“We currently have job openings for our own St. Louis Park Public Schools substitute custodians, similar to the substitute teacher process currently used by the district,” Thompson said. “These substitute custodians will be screened and have a full state and federal background check.”

Meyers said he believes the district and school are taking the right steps toward making sure another incident of this nature doesn’t happen again.

“The school and district are working together now to really ask the questions about what do we need to do make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. I feel confident that some of these steps have been taken already,” Meyers said.

Both Command Center’s Hopkins branch and national headquarters declined to comment on the is- sue, and questions asked to Tom Bravo, the district’s facilities manager, Richard Kreyer, the district’s human resources director and Rob Metz, the superintendent, were rerouted back to Thompson. Ali’s court date is set for Jan. 12.

The Echo used an outside investigator to aid in fact-checking this story.

The Echo will continue to investigate this issue.

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