WOODLAND, Wash. – The principal of a Woodland elementary school was arrested Thursday for allegedly assaulting a student.
Woodland police said they have been investigating Woodland Primary School Principal Mark Houk for several weeks after hearing allegations that Houk assaulted a student on February 26.
A staff member at the school said Houk used "more force than necessary" on multiple occasions, police said. Houk reportedly was attempting to restrain a special education third grade student in the school's "behavior room."
Parent Meredith Gomez has a third grade daughter at the school. Gomez said she was shocked that a man who has been a fixture there for so many years could be accused of mistreating a student with a disability.
"It was a special ed kid, and sometimes those kids are very hard to deal with, unfortunately," she said. "So in the end we all have to find out what the real truth is."
Another parent, Jamie Crenshaw, said she was not surprised to hear of the allegations.
"When I heard them, I believed them," she said. "And I'm glad he got punished."
After investigators conducted numerous interviews and collected evidence, Houk was arrested on three counts of fourth-degree assault, said Chief Brad Gillaspie of Woodland police.
Gillaspie said the Woodland School District cooperated fully with the investigation.
Houk was booked into the Cowlitz County Jail on $1,500 bail.
Superintendent Michael Z. Green released the following statement on behalf of the school Friday:
We hold the safety and welfare of your children as our highest priority. To that end, when there is information of any potential wrongdoing on the part of an adult in our system that could potentially threaten the well-being of a child or children, we act promptly to investigate those allegations of wrongdoing. An investigation does not indicate the guilt or innocence of an individual. It is something we must do in order to protect the safety and welfare of children. It saddens me when the media convicts a person in the court of public opinion with sensational reporting of mere rumors.
We have not written to parents until now, because the act of making an investigation public before there is any determination can severely damage, even destroy, the reputation of a person being investigated. In many cases, when allegations are thoroughly investigated, the allegations are not supported by facts. Rumors grow in situations where there is limited information. I have heard some rumors in the community that are simply wrong. I ask you to suspend judgment.
Please know, we are working to ensure the safety of your children. If you have questions, please feel free to call the Woodland Primary office and talk with Asha Riley, Woodland Public Schools’ Director of Learning. You are also welcome to call or email me.