Fifteen months ago, Janna Slye reported to superiors at Sierra Bonita Elementary in Spanish Fork that she was worried about the school custodian after finding him alone in a bathroom with one of her special education students.
Slye said the ensuing backlash from administrators ultimately forced her to resign from the Nebo School District, which investigated the February 2017 incident but found no cause to fire the custodian and later relied on a Spanish Fork Police Department investigation that ended without an arrest.
But on Tuesday, acting on new information — including a second alleged victim — the police department arrested the 59-year-old man on suspicion of two counts of sexual abuse of a child.
“I’ve been beaten down by this whole thing,” Slye said Thursday. “This is about protecting children. It’s always been about protecting children. That’s all it ever was.”
For more than a year, suspicion and accusation have surrounded the custodian as a vocal group of parents and community members have followed his status in the district and administrators’ responses to Slye and the student’s parents.
The Salt Lake Tribune was first tipped about the story in March of this year, but the substance of the accusations against the custodian were unclear, and both school district and police department representatives described insufficient evidence to move forward.
Spanish Fork Police Lt. Brandon Anderson said officers originally interviewed an 8-year-old boy about a claim of lewdness regarding the custodian, but the information received was insufficient for an arrest.
“There just wasn’t enough to go off of at that time,” Anderson said.
Last week, the same boy was interviewed again and said the custodian had pulled down his own pants in the school bathroom, grabbed the boys hand and pressed it to his genitals, Anderson said.
And this week a second boy, age 11, told police the same custodian had taken him to a shed on school grounds, pulled the boy’s pants down and touched his genitals and buttocks.
A timeline released by Nebo School District paints a slightly different picture than Slye’s version of events. The district says in February 2017 the custodian was sent to the bathroom to clean up after a boy with “health issues,” while Slye describes finding the man in the bathroom after going to check on a student who had been delayed returning to her classroom.
The district timeline notes several instances in which the custodian was placed on leave in order to investigate allegations, but that in each case there was insufficient evidence for disciplinary action.
The custodian was again placed on leave this week as a result of his arrest, according to Nebo spokeswoman Lana Hiskey.
“I think everybody involved just wants to get to the truth and find out what really happened,” Hiskey said.
But Slye said rumors of the custodian’s behavior followed him to Sierra Bonita Elementary when he began working in 2016. Prior to that assignment, he worked at Nebo’s Larsen Elementary, and he was transferred to Santaquin Elementary in 2017 after the allegations were raised against him.
Slye said she was demoted and accused of negligence after reporting her concerns. Facing a transfer to a new school, she opted to resign.
“I alerted everybody, and the whole district dismissed my claims,” Slye said.
Nancy Glover, a parent in the Sierra Bonita community, said the allegations against the custodian are heartbreaking, but she’s happy the truth is finally coming to light.
“It’s very vindicating,” Glover said. “We tried so hard to get this story out there.”
Glover said the school district should have taken action a year ago, and she is unsatisfied with administrators’ response to the arrest.
“It’s not enough,” she said. “We’re all worried about our kids.”