CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Despite murder charge, school district says it has a “good system” to screen teachers

Nov 27, 2018, 2:43 PM | Updated: 3:02 pm
Chelsea Cook...
Chelsea Watrous Cook's mug shot. Cook, a teacher at Skyridge High School, was arrested on Sunday on murder charges. (Salt Lake County Jail)
(Salt Lake County Jail)

A Skyridge High School teacher named Chelsea Cook has been arrested for murder after allegedly shooting and killing her ex-husband’s girlfriend while her three-year-old children watched.

The case has provoked a great deal of concern among parents in the Alpine School District, especially as news broke that, a month earlier, on Oct. 16th, Cook was charged for assault and domestic violence. Despite the charge, Cook continued to teach Health classes to teenage students at Skyridge for more than a month.

KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic spoke with Kimberly Bird, Assistant to the Superintendent of the Alpine School District, to discuss how they make sure teachers with violent criminal charges aren’t left alone with children and how Chelsea Cook slipped through the cracks.

Chelsea Cook was an anomaly, Alpine School District says

“There really is a good system in place,” Bird assured Dave & Dujanovic.

As soon as a public employee’s fingerprint is taken by the police, she explained, it automatically triggers an alert, starting a process that notifies the school district of the arrest as quickly as possible.

“We’re typically notified within 24 hours,” Bird said.

In Chelsea Cook’s case, however, the system failed. For reasons the school has yet to fully understand, they were never warned that Cook had been charged with a violent crime, and so had no idea that one of their teachers had been arrested until the news broke in the paper.

If they had been warned, Bird explained, the school would have reacted. Because of the severity of the charge, Cook would have been placed on immediate administrative leave and Human Resources would have opened an investigation.

The Human Resources Director, she explained, has a little leeway in how to handle cases. Issues that could put the children in jeopardy, however, are always serious.

“Things like assault, drugs, and alcohol, those things are administrative leave with an investigation,” Bird said.

Bird was unable to explain why Cook’s charges hadn’t set off the system, even after more than a month had passed. She refused, however, to blame the police who’d charged her.

“We don’t know why,” she admitted. “This one is a rare situation.”

For the time being, the Alpine School District wants to assure students and parents that this was an anomaly and that Cook is no longer employed at the school.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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Despite murder charge, school district says it has a “good system” to screen teachers