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‘No questions, top secret’: IPS hands over hundreds of emails between employees on child seduction case

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Indianapolis Public Schools officials have handed over hundreds of emails between employees in response to a public records request by FOX59.

The emails, which were sent to and from multiple employees over the span of about a week, all relate to the Shana Taylor case. Prosecutors charged Taylor, a counselor, with child seduction after she was accused of having sex with two students. She was later fired.

FOX59 made the request in March. The emails are heavily redacted by attorneys, who cited things like attorney-client privilege and personnel issues as reasons for holding back information.

Attorneys also said this is the "first batch" of records, and that a search yielded several thousand documents. They did not provide a timeline for when the rest could be released.

Overall, the emails released so far follow the timeline laid out by police in the case, in which a parent came forward on Feb. 17 with the allegations, and IPS failed to report it to Child Protective Services or police until six days later.

The emails give a better glimpse into what was happening inside the district during that time period.

Twice, employees mention IPS Police.

The morning of Feb. 18, Director of Human Resources Tina Hester says in an email to Chief Strategist Le Boler, "I asked that the school police stay out of it so that (Taylor) is not charged and we can handle from an HR perspective..."

In response, Boler says in part, "I saw Chief Garner sent an email to IPS Police reminding them of confidentiality this morning. We'll see how this goes..."

It's clear in the emails that the district is heavily focused on damage control early on. Boler says in an email to media coordinators that same day, "...at this time she has no reason to think the parent is going to the media."

Also on the 18th, Principal Mark Cosand sent an email to another employee saying, "Please ... deactivate Shana Taylor's badge ASAP! No questions, top secret."

The emails also show the evidence collected by IPS and turned over to detectives the next week.

HR investigator Shalon Dabney sent a full list to a detective on the 23rd, including Facebook messages between Taylor and (redacted), a written statement provided by Shana Taylor, and various other documents.

Dabney emailed Cosand that day, saying "IMPD is in need of Shana Taylor's computer. Does she have a desktop computer, laptop, or both?" By the date of that email, Taylor had already been suspended for five days.

Prosecutors charged Dabney and Tina Hester with failure to report. They both took deals with the state for pretrial diversion.

Also notable in the request is a lack of emails from Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee.

There is one email, from Hester to Dabney on Feb. 26, in which she says, "Dr. Ferebee is not pleased that we didn't terminate her yesterday and now it looks like we did it because she was arrested. I shared that we were concerned about not giving her due process because we had set things up to finalize things today. (redacted) So, I guess the take away for us is did we move swiftly enough after getting the statements from the brother?"

Ferebee and the district declined to comment on the emails. In March, Ferebee called the delay in reporting a "total failure" and "perfect storm of miscommunication."

Thursday night, School Board President Mary Ann Sullivan addressed the situation for the first time in a statement to the public. Sullivan defended the district, saying it "acted with as much urgency as the law and circumstances would allow." You can watch that full statement at the link here.