Kalispell schools probing anonymous email incident

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The sky above Flathead High School got some dramatic colors just before the sun began to peak over the mountains on Wednesday morning, February 15, in Kalispell. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Kalispell Public Schools are investigating a recent incident in which an anonymous person used email in an attempt to pressure the school district into punishing one of its employees.

Mark Flatau, superintendent of Kalispell Public Schools, sent out an email to staff, families and the news media on Sept. 20 following an anonymous email that contained a link to a website — since taken down — about Flathead High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Bryce Wilson.

“Kalispell Public Schools (KPS) received an anonymous email this morning regarding allegations of unethical and immoral behavior of Flathead High School AD, Bryce Wilson. This email was sent out by using a number of one-time Gmail accounts from various fake names,” Flatau stated in his letter to the community.

The original anonymous email was sent to Kalispell Public Schools employees, families, students, outlying school districts and the media, according to Flatau. The email complained about the personal relationship of Wilson and Flathead High School Principal Michele Paine and its alleged impact on their professional dealings. It demanded that the district punish Wilson.

“We do not feel that this email came from an internal KPS Gmail account,” Flatau continued.

The emails were sent from random email addresses to different people, but all originate from a “gmail.com” domain.

The school district’s information technology team is currently investigating the source of the emails.

Flatau said the district’s computer network hasn’t been compromised and the email containing the website link was checked for malicious software — “malware” — which it didn’t contain.

This is not the first time anonymous emails have been sent regarding the Flathead High School administrators’ relationship.

“Currently the district is in contact with legal counsel and has contracted with multiple network forensics entities to determine the source of the emails. In addition, IT blocked those addresses and similar subject heads. We will contact law enforcement in the event that the individual(s) engaged in criminal activity,” Flatau stated in his email to the community.

The Daily Inter Lake received two anonymous emails on March 1 and 8 that had a similar tone. One of the emails was also sent to Flatau and school board trustees. When Flatau responded, the anonymous author sent another email criticizing Flatau’s letter. At the time the March emails were sent, the school board was nearing its decision in naming a new principal to replace Peter Fusaro. One of the candidates was Paine, who had been serving as interim principal since July 2017. Prior to being named interim principal, the school board had been made aware of the potential conflict of interest and how the leadership structure would be changed in having Wilson report to Flatau instead of to Paine.

After Paine was selected as the new principal in an 8-1 vote in March, athletic directors for Glacier and Flathead high schools and Kalispell Middle School all now report to district Assistant Superintendent Callie Langohr.

“It is highly unfortunate that the personal relationship of two employees has consumed a certain individual(s) in our community. Despite these attempts to inflict harm on the reputation of individuals as well as the reputation of Kalispell Public Schools, we are committed to ensuring that our focus remains on the students of the district and the great things that are happening in our district. Kalispell Public Schools remains the best place to live, learn, and work,” Flatau concluded in his email updating the community and media.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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