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HLWW, Todd Becker Foundation working together to investigate Sept. 17 events
Sept. 29, 2014

By Ivan Raconteur

HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN – Two events at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) High School Sept. 17 presented by the Todd Becker Foundation resulted in some confusion over who sponsored them.

One was sponsored by the school, the other was sponsored by a group of area churches.

HLWW Superintendent Brad Sellner explained the difference between the two events.

According to Sellner, the school had an agreement with the Todd Becker Foundation under which the foundation was to present a secular message to students during a school assembly about not drinking and driving.

The evening event was not sponsored by the school, but was organized by local churches. Sellner said he did not have a list of the churches involved, but said it includes churches in Howard Lake, Waverly, Winsted, and Lester Prairie.

The evening event was promoted as a religious event, which is permitted under district policy.

Sellner said he is investigating some things that occurred during the earlier presentation that may have violated district policy.

Religious materials were allegedly distributed to some students, but when this occurred and who distributed them are under investigation. It also appears religious posters may have been hung at the school. These materials were not approved by the district.

Sellner is also looking into whether the presenter during the school assembly made reference to the evening event.

Sellner said he is conducting an investigation to determine if there may have been miscommunication between the school and the foundation.

“I want to make sure everyone was on the same page,” Sellner commented.

He said the district will continue to look at policies and procedures, and make sure the district is following its procedures and communicating them clearly

Keith Becker of the Todd Becker Foundation said he is working with the district in determining what occurred Sept. 17.

“At this point, our organization is in communication with the school administration at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted to gather all the facts of the situation, and we are working through the details to determine if there were any misunderstandings or forms of miscommunication from either party. We appreciate the school’s willingness to allow us to share our assembly with their students and value our ongoing relationship with the school district,” Becker stated.

Last week, Sellner provided a copy of the school’s facility use policy, and posted the policy on the school’s website.

The policy

Policy 902, Use of School District Facilities and Equipment sets forth guidelines for community use of school facilities.

The policy states, “The school board encourages maximum use of school facilities and equipment for community purposes if, in its judgement, that use will not interfere with use for school purposes.”

The policy also states, “The school board may authorize the use of school facilities by community groups or individuals. It may impose reasonable regulations and conditions upon the use of school facilities as it deems appropriate. All District 2687 policies, local and state ordinances, laws, and fire codes pertaining to the use of public buildings and facilities must be observed by all individuals/organizations using school facilities.”

According to the policy, “The use of school district facilities must be in the public interest. The school board reserves the final right to deny the use of district facilities when activities are deemed contrary to the purpose of school district policies or public good.”

The policy specifically states, “Community use of facilities under this policy does not imply school district sponsorship or endorsement of the activity, groups, or organizations, nor the purposes they may represent.”

According to the policy, “Competent adult supervision (21 years or older) must be provided by the group during the entire use. The group supervisor(s) will be held responsible for compliance of rules, general behavior, and safety of group members.”

The policy states, “Printed promotional materials and media announcements for non-school-sponsored activities/events must include the following disclaimer: ‘This activity/event is NOT sponsored by District 2687’ and must clearly identify the name and contact information of the sponsoring group.”

“Printed promotional materials must be submitted to the facility scheduler before posting or distribution in order to receive approval by the District 2687 community education director.”

Sellner stated the presenters from the Todd Becker Foundation did not submit materials for review or approval by the district. His investigation will help to determine if the policy was explained to the Todd Becker Foundation.

In addition to the facilities use policy, the district has a policy covering distribution of printed materials at the school.

Sellner said the Todd Becker Foundation has conducted presentations at other area schools, and these schools recommended the foundation’s secular assembly to HLWW administration.

The evening event

Herald Journal received a report of an alleged incident that occurred after the evening event Sept. 17.

It was alleged that a mother went to the school to find her son when he did not call for a ride home from the event. She was also unable to reach him on his cell phone.

It was alleged that the doors were locked when the woman arrived at the school, and she had to attract the attention of a janitor to let her in to look for her son.

Sellner noted that it is standard procedure after an evening event at the school for janitors to lock the doors after attendees have left, and only people tearing down and cleaning up remain.

When the mother arrived, the boy was reportedly talking with a representative from the foundation.

Police were called.

Howard Lake Police Chief Dave Thompson confirmed that his office was called to the school on the evening of Sept. 17 to what he described as a conflict between a mother and her son.

Thompson said the officer who responded assisted with mediating a resolution, and the son went home with his mother.

About the Todd Becker Foundation

According to its website, the Todd Becker Foundation travels throughout the Midwest and puts on an assembly presentation to public high schools, grades nine-12. “The assembly unfolds the tragic and life-changing choices that ultimately led to the death of Todd Becker.”

“Seen by over 50,000 high school students in the Midwest, the story is told largely by Todd’s older brother, Keith, and includes live music from the touring band ‘Chye,’ graphic images, videos, and many other media elements.”

According to the website, “Typically, two separate assemblies are put on when the Todd Becker Foundation visits a local high school. The first is the afternoon assembly for grades 9-12, which is held during school hours. This assembly tells the tragic Todd Becker story and challenges students to take the narrow road, according to the scripture, Matthew 7:13. The major focus of this message is choices and their consequences.

“That same evening, another separate assembly is put on where the touring band “Chye” puts on a concert and an entirely different story and message is presented. This evening event is largely a faith-based, Christian message.”

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