High school girls’ coach fired after making overtures toward former student

(Creative Commons photo via Pxhere.com)

A former girls’ soccer coach was fired from Des Moines East High School earlier this year after contacting a former student and asking whether she’d broken up with her boyfriend.

State unemployment records indicate Oscar Meza of Des Moines was fired earlier this year from his job as a full-time campus monitor for East High School. State records indicate Meza’s worked for the Des Moines public school district for 13 years as campus monitor, girls’ soccer coach and translator.

In March, Principal Leslie Morris received an email from a former student who indicated Meza had messaged her through Facebook, asking whether she had broken up yet with her boyfriend.

Meza allegedly wrote to the student: “I always thought you were a cutie, but I couldn’t say anything because I was your teacher/administrator, but now I’m not anymore … lol … especially because you are single … What do you have to say now? … Like I said, I always thought you were a cutie! Especially now that you are older. Yes, you were always a cutie, I feel comfortable saying that now that (you) have graduated.”

At a hearing over his request for unemployment benefits, Meza allegedly admitted he was wrong to contact a former student, but maintained he had not violated school policies since the woman in question was no longer a student and he had contacted her only through Facebook.

He was denied unemployment benefits, in part because he admitted using a confidential student database to access information on the former student and her boyfriend.

Other Iowans who were recently denied or awarded unemployment benefits include:

  • Latia Campbell of Waterloo, who was fired earlier this year from Neuro Rehabcare of Waterloo, where she worked as a full-time direct service professional. According to her former employer, a brain-injured patient who resided at one of the company’s residential facilities complained about an unauthorized $460 charge on his credit card. Waterloo police investigated and determined the $460 was applied to a credit account maintained by Campbell at a local furniture store where she had purchased items. Campbell had recently assisted the patient with the purchase of a computer, which involved the use of the same credit card later used to make payments on Campbell’s furniture-store account. Campbell was denied unemployment benefits after a hearing this month. No criminal charges were filed in the matter.
  • Beth Weinhold, who earlier this year resigned from her position as a special-education associate with the Pekin Community School District. In late 2019, a high school student took a picture of Weinhold with another student acting as though he was about to strike Weinhold’s buttocks, then added a caption that said, “I’m going to get that cake,” using a slang term for that area of a woman’s anatomy. Weinhold brought the matter to the attention of the school principal, who allegedly replied that when he was a student he would have done the same thing if he had access to the technology students use today. Then, the principal allegedly zoomed in on the photo of Weinhold’s buttocks. After that discussion, Weinhold emailed the superintendent about her concerns with both the photo and the principal’s response. The superintendent allegedly forwarded her email to the principal, who then asked Weinhold to meet with him personally to discuss the matter. When Weinhold objected and told the superintendent it was not acceptable for him to refer the matter to the person who was the subject of her complaint, the superintendent allegedly responded by saying he did not realize that was how Weinhold felt about the matter. Days later, Weinhold’s daughter, who attended the same school, was allegedly assaulted and had her nose broken by a fellow student. The district did not expel the other student, but instead imposed a 10-day suspension and implemented a safety plan. Weinhold later complained the district was not following the agreed-upon safety plan, but no changes were made. Weinhold resigned, citing her frustration with both incidents. An administrative law judge recently awarded her unemployment benefits, saying the school district’s “inadequate response” to both the sexual harassment and the assault created intolerable working conditions that forced Weinhold to quit.
Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.