After Newton Community School District Superintendent Bob Callaghan gave a detailed recap of David LaVera’s activities in two Newton school buildings, Berg Middle School and Aurora Heights Elementary School, the school board agreed to start looking closer at the district’s security measures for visitors after Monday’s meeting.
LaVera, 33, is a native of San Diego and reportedly has been in the Newton area since early to mid-May. During this time, he claimed he was an actor in the “Twilight” film series and had been signing autographs under the alias “Kiowa Gordon” — a verified actor in the series. He is currently incarcerated at the Jasper County Jail for allegedly enticing a 14-year-old Baxter girl into his vehicle on June 10 and is being held on $50,000 bond.
He is also being investigated for an incident involving a 14-year-old Newton girl.
“David was a guest in the home of parents of three of our students. The eldest child requested that Mr. LaVera be allowed to talk to his classmates (at BMS) regarding his Hollywood experiences,” Callaghan said. “The teacher verified his credentials and received permission from campus administration.”
LaVera then made his first appearance at BMS on May 28, where he was accompanied by both parents, and they proceeded with the district’s standard visitor formalities — identifying yourself on camera, going to the main office to sign in, being assigned a visitor’s badge and then being accompanied to said destination.
A complete guide of the district’s visitor’s policy may be found at www.newtoncsd.org/Downloads/1006.pdf.
“Mr. LaVera, with both parents, visited their son’s classroom where the teacher was present. After the classroom talk, Mr. LaVera was given permission by the principal to do some stunts on the cafeteria stage,” Callaghan said.
BMS principal Scott Bauer wasn’t present at Monday’s meeting.
LaVera’s visit proved to be popular, and he was invited back to BMS on May 30 for a short assembly to perform more stunts. He also was present at the school’s end-of-year pool party on June 9, which Callaghan added was properly chaperoned by school personnel.
LaVera visited Aurora Heights on May 29 to visit the couple’s daughter’s classroom. Social media posts from district parents and students indicate LaVera signed autographs and posed for photos with students during his visits.
Callaghan said LaVera was accompanied by the parents and a district staff member at all times while in the buildings. He said there is video verifying this and that he received three emails and three phone calls regarding the situation.
LaVera was arrested June 10. According to court documents, he engaged in inappropriate conversation of a sexual nature with the Baxter girl on Facebook while knowing she was a minor and persuaded her to meet him that day at the Baxter Community School Park, where he allegedly touched her inappropriately on the buttocks before luring her into his vehicle and driving around the Baxter area, according to court documents.
Authorities were notified of the incident at 1:28 p.m., and a concerned citizen aware of the situation observed the girl in LaVera’s vehicle shortly after. The person stopped the vehicle and told the girl to get out. LaVera left the scene and was apprehended a short time later. During a search of his vehicle, authorities found a sword exceeding eight inches in length and four double-edged daggers within his reach. He has been charged with enticement of a minor, a Class D felony; carrying weapons, an aggravated misdemeanor; and failure to have a valid driver’s license, a simple misdemeanor.
Callaghan and NCSD Business Manager Gayle Isaac presented the board with several options for ways the board can consider improving the district’s visitor protocol for the upcoming school year. One suggestion that seemed to gain the most traction was implementing a program from Raptor Technologies.
According to Raptor, more than 10,000 schools, YMCAs and community centers use its program. The company also says its program has identified more than 10,000 sex offenders who’ve tried to enter one of those facilities.
With Raptor, all visitors would be required to provide some form of valid state identification — including parents. The system would then scan the ID and cross-reference a person with the National Sex Offender Registry list.
Callaghan said a discussion was held last year with the district’s administrators on requiring visitor’ to present IDs, but it was decided against for reasons of convenience for parents.
“Parents without state IDs or driver’s licenses are concerned. Well, it’s much less of a concern to me to say we should require all individuals to have some form of state identification. It is the law of our land. It is an expectation,” Callaghan said.
“I realize that people may not want to have that. I’m sorry that they don’t want to have some form of state ID, but we need to have that for the safety of our children.”
If a visitor passes a Raptor check, the system would print the visitor a temporary photo ID badge that indicates the time and date of their visit to a specific building.
Isaac estimated installing the system at all seven of the district’s campuses would cost between $13,000 to $15,000 initially, and more than $2,500 annually for supplies to maintain the system. If the board chooses this measure down the line, Isaac said it could be paid for with Physical Plant and Equipment Levy funds or Capitol Improvement funds.
In order to come up with a solution, a sub-committee made up of Isaac, board president Andy Elbert and board members Travis Padget, Donna Cook and Nat Clark was formed. The district will also be increasing the number of cameras in school buildings.
A timetable was not set, but the new measures are expected to be implemented before the first day of school Aug. 19.
Callaghan indicated that even if the district had already had this system in place, there were no warning signs that LaVera was capable of the things he has been accused of. He said law enforcement agencies have verified LaVera had no criminal history and that if he had, the various media outlets in attendance would have reported it.
The district’s school resource officer, Brian Foster, gave his thoughts on security in the schools.
“I think throughout my year and a half in the schools, I think that the school district has done a great job with security,” Foster said. “I think our safety is good. I think we’ve done a great job. I can’t speak of this latest incident — I wasn’t much part of it — but beyond that we’ve done a great job.”
Senior staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.