Former teacher Dustin Mead’s trial scheduled for March 26


Ashley Long

Mead watches a varsity boys’ soccer game against Des Moines Lincoln in 2015.

Nick Irwin and Megan Walker

It has been over a year since former teacher Dustin Mead was put on administrative leave for allegations he sexually assaulted one or more students during the 2015-16 school year. After the trial was continued twice, the case is set to be heard 9 a.m. March 26 at the Polk County Courthouse.

After being placed on paid administrative leave beginning Jan. 18, 2017, the science teacher and assistant boys’ soccer coach was arrested and charged with sexual abuse in the third degree and sexual exploitation by a school employee March 6, 2017. An order of protection was filed on March 7, forbidding Mead from contact with any Johnston High School students or any persons under 18 years of age. Mead was released from custody on bond. His bail was set at $100,000. He resigned from his position last April.

Mead plead not guilty to both charges April 20, 2017. The original court date was June 26, 2017, which was continued to Oct 2. After a status conference held Sept. 7, 2017, the trial was continued to Dec. 4, 2017.

According to court documents, Amanda Kay Dugan reported information about the alleged abuse. The defendant requested to depose Dugan as a material witness with essential information to the defense of the case, requiring Dugan to testify or present evidence under oath.

A subpoena, a court order for the summoning or submission of evidence before a court, was attempted to be delivered to Dugan by Scott Gratias, a private investigator from Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 5, 2017, though the attempt was unsuccessful. Gratias returned Aug. 6 and met a friend of Dugan’s, Claire Legor. “Claire was very cooperative and stated that Amanda is in L.A.,” court documents read. “She stated that she would get the papers to Amanda right away. We gave the subpoena to Claire Legor at 3:19 p.m. on 08/06/17.”

Although the court documents list 6904 Donahey Drive in Panora, IA as the delivery address, when “Black and White” reporters drove to that address, all that was there was an empty lot.

In Dec. 2017, the defendant made a motion to compel the deposition testimony of Amanda Dugan. The court found no authority to compel Amanda Dugan to submit a discovery deposition, which would require her to answer questions regarding the case presented by the opposing attorney, and denied the motion.

According to a discovery agreement, an agreement outlining the pre-trial procedures, signed May 11, 2017, both parties have agreed that no attorney or agent of an attorney may speak to the media regarding this case. The attorney for the state is Mike Salvner, and the attorneys for the defendant are Guy Cook and Adam Zenor. A waiver of speedy trial was filed on May 16, 2017.

Several students and school faculty members were either subpoenaed or gave voluntary interviews. Science teacher Kyla Burns gave an interview with the Johnston Police Department March 29, 2017, although she declined to comment to the “Black and White” on the contents of the interview.

Human Resources Manager Jill Rutz was subpoenaed Aug. 14, 2017, but declined to comment. Horizon principal Lindsey Cornwell was subpoenaed Aug. 9, 2017. Cornwell also declined to comment.

Former Horizon secretary and current high school secretary Terri Spencer was served with a subpoena via email Aug. 14, 2017. She told the “Black and White” she was unaware of the subpoena’s delivery.

Executive Director of Human Resources Laura Kacer explained that Cornwell was an internal investigator for the district, trained under Chapter 102, a manual of Iowa Department of Education that outlines procedures involving mandatory investigation and reporting of suspected child abuse.

Kacer said all educators are trained to be mandatory reporters, individuals legally required to report suspicions of child abuse to the Iowa Department of Human Services. District officials and administrators receive additional training on Chapter 102, which allows them to become internal investigators. Internal investigators receive the complaints of alleged abuse by a school employee, and they look into the claims to see if there is reasonable suspicion. If reasonable suspicion is present, then the claims and further investigations are turned over to the Iowa Department of Human Services.

The internal investigators are a group of several qualified individuals to eliminate bias in an investigation. In Johnston Community School District, the trained investigators are Summit Associate Principal Kevin Blackburn, Lindsey Cornwell, Laura Kacer, Wallace Principal Suzie Pearson and investigator Jim McDonald.

The trial cannot be postponed or continued beyond March 26, unless an emergency or sudden absence should occur. “Scheduling order provided, no further continuances for the trial will be allowed,” court documents said.