MILWAUKEE — A Messmer High School science teacher faces fines of up to $100,000 and/or up to 40 years in prison if convicted on two charges of second-degree sexual assault.
Megan Garland, 28, allegedly had sexual contact with a 14-year-old student in the parking lot of Destiny High School, Milwaukee, on May 23, and was taken into police custody at a local medical facility after she attempted suicide at the scene, according to a May 24 press release from the Milwaukee Police Department.
A second allegation of sexual assault was made against Garland on May 27 by a 15-year-old Messmer student, according to a second press release from the Milwaukee Police Department on May 29.
Mike Bartels, Messmer High School’s acting president, sent a letter to parents after the first alleged incident explaining that Garland was suspended pending the investigation.
“We are deeply troubled by this allegation as we take the safety and the privacy of our students very seriously. We will do everything we can to work with police to determine what happened,” he wrote. “Our hearts and prayers go out to both of their families.”
In a second press release, dated May 30, Bartels said everyone at the school was saddened and outraged by news of a second allegation against Garland.
“Such conduct, if proven true, is unacceptable at Messmer Catholic Schools and we take any such allegations very seriously,” he wrote. “We continue to cooperate fully with the Milwaukee Police Department in this ongoing investigation.”
Bartels said in the written statement that Messmer’s faculty and staff are required to participate in training to maintain a safe environment for children.
“This training includes protecting our children from any kind of abuse or other dangers,” he wrote. “Participating in our required training program helps all who work with children be more attuned to the warning signs of abuse and identify ways to respond. The alleged conduct by the accused teacher is in strict violation of our code of conduct.”
He encouraged anyone with concerns or information to come forward so they could be directed to the appropriate authorities.
“The teacher, who was charged on May 28, remains suspended pending the outcome of the police investigation and Messmer’s own internal review,” he wrote. “As we move forward, we continue our commitment to the safety, protection and privacy of all our students and school community.”
Bartels told your Catholic Herald on Monday that counselors have visited the classrooms and talked to individual students to share what they can and to make them aware of the services available.
“We want them to be able to utilize our services,” he said. “We don’t want them to feel like they should be ashamed, or anything, of going to them.”
Bartels said they’re also in the process of setting up services for faculty and staff.
“In terms of students and our faculty and staff here, we consider ourselves a family and we feel really we’re all going through a grieving process right now and we’re trying to come together as a family and through discussions, to help each other through this time, while at the same time, we need to focus on the students who are here,” Bartels said, explaining that graduation ceremonies for eighth-grade and high school students were held last weekend.
Garland’s classes were covered internally by the science department, according to Bartels.
“Ever since then, the teachers, especially the science department, have really been supportive and going out of their way to cover these and make sure the students get the education they need,” he said.
Students have also been positive, according to Bartels.
“We’ve come together for prayer services a couple of times since this has all happened and it’s a very strong group of students and they’ve come together in a very positive way and are really focused on the positive,” he said.
Bartels said Messmer will continue to cooperate with police during the investigation, conduct its own internal review to ensure the school followed its processes, and continue to monitor what happens in court.
“I continue to say that this is not what we expect from our faculty and staff. We try and hold our teachers to the highest standard possible, and when this happens, we take these matters very seriously and we will continue to do so,” he said. “This is unacceptable behavior and the safety of our students and their education is our main concern.”
Garland appeared in court on Friday, May 31. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Monday, June 10.