Former Unit 5 employee resigns amid misconduct allegations, residents speak out

Local News

McLean County residents are speaking out after former Unit 5 school district employee, Dr. James Harden was accused of misconduct. 

WGLT obtained a July 2018 Letter of Reprimand from Harden’s personnel record. The letter allegedly written by Superintendent Mark Daniel, claims an investigation found harden made sexual and racial comments to coworkers.

The letter says:

  • Harden denied making sexual comments or intentional gestures of sexual nature.
  • Harden acknowledged discussing issues of race and cultural differences in the unit office.
  • Harden acknowledged to investigators that he called female staff members by his wife’s name when they would get “fussy”.

The letter says investigators concluded that Harden’s comments were not made with the intent to harass, offend, or discriminate coworkers. According to the letter investigators also concluded that Harden’s conduct did not rise to the level of unlawful harassment or a violation of the Board of Education’s sexual harassment policy.

Harden, former Unit 5 HR director resigned from his position in March. According to WGLT the district paid Harden nearly $34-thousand dollars for the tenure left on his contract and unused vacation time.

During Wednesday’s evening Unit 5 school board meeting several residents laid out their concerns about the matter.

Three people spoke during Wednesday evening during public comment, each with different perspectives.

WGLT says board members and Harden both signed a non-disclosure to never discuss the matter, that left some questioning how information about the made public.

McLean county resident who spoke out Wednesday say it’s unfair that Harden’s character is being slandered yet he can’t legally speak out to defend himself

“You all need to do your homework,” said Melinda. “Every charge against Dr. Harden was a lie. People didn’t just want his resignation, they wanted his character.”

On the other hand, another resident had a different perspective.

“The district should do more to handle bullying and harassment in the schools,” said Unit 5 parent Jody Stothouser.

Stothouser questioned district leaders on how they could hold students accountable for bullying and harassment, while she believes the district didn’t hold Harden accountable for similar claims.

After Wednesday’s meeting, WMBD Reporter DaLaun Dillard reached out to Superintendent Daniel for a comment on the matter. Daniel declined his request for comment.             

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