Wausau Superintendent: We "messed up" communication in child sex assault investigation

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) Wausau School District Superintendent Keith Hilts tells 7 Investigates they "messed up" how they handled a child sex assault investigation in one of their classrooms.

Photo courtesy Marathon County Jail

Zachary Robins, a substitute teacher in the Wausau School District, was charged with two counts of child sex assault last week. Court documents suggest he inappropriately touched two students in the classroom on October 15th.

7 Investigates learned school districts are legally required to report 'immoral conduct' by a teacher or substitute teacher to the Department of Public Instruction. DPI Communications Director Benson Gardner told 7 Investigates Tuesday, they were not contacted about Robin's investigation or dismissal.

7 Investigates asked Supt. Keith Hilts today if the district was aware of the reporting law. Hilts told us the district has protocols in place to make sure these kinds of incidents are reported to DPI, but in this case they were not followed.

Hilts says they're adding redundancies to their policies, and working to improve communication with parents.

Hilts told 7 Investigates, "that's my main disappointment. We weren't able to notify parents earlier and moving forward we've got a more solid communication plan. Who's talking to who and what are we going to do when we get, you know, any kind of a message. Any kind of a crisis message."

Hilts also says the district is evaluating it's decision to switch from hiring substitute teachers directly, to using an outside firm.

This past summer, the Wausau School District contracted Parallel Education Division's services to hire substitute teachers.

Hitls says the district used to have a record of each district a substitute teacher worked in, but that information was lost when they switched to a private service.

7 Investigates learned Robins served as a substitute teacher in the DC Everest School District while Wausau Police were investigating the child sexual assault allegations made against him.

We asked the Department of Public Instruction how that was possible.

Benson says the DPI does track which districts substitute teachers teach in, but they only gather that information once a year.

Right now, the most recent list of substitutes is from Fall of 2018.

Since Robins received his license to substitute teach in January of 2019, and was hired by local districts after that, he does not appear as a substitute on their list.

DPI says when they receive a report about 'immoral conduct' it launches an investigation into whether that teacher should have their license revoked. Right now, the status of Robins' license is "under investigation."

DPI says until that investigation is complete, only the district that reported the immoral conduct and the teacher are aware of the investigation. If a license is revoked, all school districts who employ the teacher are informed.