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Richland 44 superintendent put on leave amid investigations

Tim Godfrey

COLFAX, N.D. — In the midst of an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct involving boys at the junior and senior high schools in the Richland 44 School District, the superintendent has been placed on paid administrative leave.

Tim Godfrey was removed from his role as district head Thursday, March 1, according to Richland 44 School Board President Lisa Amundson.

"Earlier today I placed Supt. Tim Godfrey on paid administrative leave effective immediately," Amundson said in an email to The Forum. "For the duration of the leave, Mr. (Bruce) Anderson will be handling the superintendent duties with assistance from the board as needed."

No explanation was given for why Godfrey was placed on leave. It's unconfirmed whether the sexual misconduct investigation is related to his leave. Attempts to reach Godfrey Thursday afternoon were unsuccessful.

Anderson, the high school principal who is now also the temporary superintendent, said the school board decided to put Godfrey on administrative leave during a closed-door session Wednesday evening, Feb. 28. "I was not in that executive session," Anderson said.

Anderson said he learned of his added responsibilities about 9:30 a.m. Thursday. He said the school board met with school staff Thursday morning to inform them of the change. Students were monitored in their classrooms by paraprofessionals during those meetings, he said.

Anderson said he did not have much time to talk with staff Thursday to gauge their sentiment, because they were teaching, and "I've been trying to figure things out here."

The Richland County Sheriff's Office said last month that five boys are charged with 13 misdemeanor counts of hazing, 11 misdemeanor counts of sexual assault, nine felony counts of felonious restraint and one felony count of terrorizing. The five boys were referred to juvenile court.

Interviews by investigators revealed information about alleged offenses occurring in the boys locker room. The victims were all boys and were in varying grades, the sheriff's office said.

Investigators learned that some offenses occurred in Bismarck, and that information was sent to the Bismarck Police Department.

Bismarck Sgt. Mark Buschena has said his staff received a report Thursday, Feb. 15, indicating that a sexual assault involving juveniles took place in Bismarck on an undisclosed date. Buschena said his department will be conducting its own investigation.

The Richland County Sheriff's Office and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation are investigating the case, the sheriff's office said.

The Richland 44 School District also launched its own investigation in January after parents' complaints surfaced about older boys bullying, hazing and sexually assaulting younger male students. Along with the sheriff's office and school district investigations, the school board decided in mid-February to begin a third, independent investigation.

Anderson said he could not comment on the status of the investigations or when they might wrap up.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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