During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Killeen Independent School District employee was investigated for posting on social media about the deadly virus’ spread among campuses, records show.
The COVID-19 post was one of dozens of other social media posts used in Killeen ISD investigations of employees over the past three years.
According to documents obtained through a September 2021 public information request, in at least five cases, KISD’s chief investigator turned to public social media pages to find evidence of KISD employees’ misconduct.
After a lengthy opens-record request with KISD that began last year, the Herald has, thus far, received 63 school district investigative reports — out of those documents five cases stand out where one of the main sources of evidence against the employee came from their public social media pages.
Killeen ISD releases second set of investigative reports
KISD’s electronic communications policy, found in the district’s employee handbook, states staff are responsible for their public conduct even when they are not acting as district employees.
“Employees will be held to the same professional standards in their public use of electronic media as they are for any other public conduct,” the handbook states.
Electronic communication, according to the district, includes all forms of social media, text messaging, instant messaging, email, blogs, chat rooms, video-sharing websites, editorial comments posted on the internet, and all forms of telecommunications such as landlines, cellphones, and web-based applications.
The handbook doesn’t explicitly say that the district is actively monitoring employees’ social media pages, but make no mistake: KISD is watching.
KISD spokeswoman Taina Maya said the district employs a company called Meltwater, for $10,350 a year, to monitor social media 24/7, and other platforms, for KISD-related content. It is unclear if Meltwater was involved in researching employees’ social media content for any of KISD Director of Investigations and School Safety Charles “Chuck” Kelley’s investigative reports.
“The company monitors out social channels for engagements, daily media mentions, and public social media posts that reference KISD or any of our campuses,” Maya said. “In an event that a ‘threatening’ post is detected or flagged, there are a group of district level administrators, including KISD Police and School Safety that receive an immediate alert, in addition to a push alert and email. Meltwater sends these imminent alerts regardless of the time of day.”
On Aug. 14, 2020, months into the pandemic, according to one of KISD’s reports, the district received a complaint about a custodial worker’s Facebook post regarding COVID-19’s spread just prior to the start of school.
The complaint, according to Kelley, alleged she was “misusing her Facebook account by posting false information relative to the current COVID-19 pandemic and how it is affecting KISD.”
“On her Facebook page, (she) was advising that multiple KISD staff members at various campuses had tested positive for the disease. She was speaking as a KISD employee, stating that this information was ‘confirmed,’” Kelley’s report said.
“The comments created quite a ‘Fire Storm’ with readers since (redacted) spoke as a KISD employee who seemed to have insider information relative to the current COVID-19 situation within the district,” according to the report.
Between Aug. 1 and Aug. 14, 2020, KISD reported 12 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among its employees, according to prior Herald reporting.
The 2020-2021 school year marked the first time teachers had been back in the classroom since COVID-19 brought everything in Texas to a halt in March of 2020.
The custodian, according to Kelley’s report, apologized and agreed to remove the COVID-19-related Facebook post.
In another instance, another KISD custodian’s social media was investigated due to a questionable Tinder profile picture.
In June 2021, Kelley investigated a custodian who allegedly took a photo of himself half-nude in a school classroom for his Tinder profile.
The custodian, in an interview with Kelley, admitted to taking the risque photo, according to his report.
“Mr. (redacted) advised that ‘several years ago’ at an unknown campus, while inside a classroom, he was stripping floors and had to change his pants,” the report states. “He stated that in a moment of not thinking, he took a photo of himself in his underwear to post on his Tinder dating app.”
The Tinder accusation led Kelley to find other “concerning” social media posts.
The custodian’s public Facebook page allegedly included posts about smoking marijuana, the N-word, and “the odor of a vagina” — posts Kelley asked the employee to remove permanently before changing his profile settings to private.
The custodian was “very cooperative,” according to Kelley, agreeing to delete the social media posts in addition to his Tinder account.
2018 KISD custodian investigation
In July of 2018, an investigation into a custodian sleeping on duty led Kelley to learn the staff member worked nights as a “dancer” at an area “men’s club” with an extra side hustle in the pornography business.
“I was also able to access her Instagram account which displays various videos that display (redacted) in lingerie outfits revealing her entire rear end unclothed and shows videos of her ‘twerking’ displaying her bare rear end,” Kelley’s report states.
“She stated that she does those videos and works at the club because her custodian job does not pay enough,” his report states.
Although Kelley’s reports state various employee codes of conduct were broken by these staff members, the reports submitted to the Herald do not make it clear if any disciplinary action came from these investigations.