By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
ARLINGTON — The principal of a private school in Arlington accused of child rape involving a student has been investigated in the past for allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls, according to state officials.
Before Mark Evan Brown, 37, was hired to lead Highland Christian School three years ago, he was a wrestling coach at Concrete High School in Skagit County. School officials there called Child Protective Services in March 2004 after allegations surfaced that Brown “had sexual contact with several female students,” said Steve Williams, a spokesman for the state Department of Social and Health Services.
State officials reported the allegations to the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office, Williams said. Brown was released from his coaching contract in Concrete.
What happened to the Skagit County allegations was not immediately clear, but officials say they are being revisited as part of the new investigation. A call to the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office was not returned to The Herald on Thursday.
Brown was charged Wednesday in Snohomish County Superior Court with third-degree child rape and ordered held on $100,000 bail. He posted bond and was released about five hours later.
Brown is accused of encouraging a 14-year-old student to run away from home and offering her a place to stay at the school. The girl told detectives Brown had sexual contact with her at the school in a room he set up with a hide-a-bed and television, according to court documents.
Detectives say Brown and girl exchanged nearly 700 text messages and phone calls.
Brown’s ex-wife, Casey West of Darrington, said Thursday she filed for divorce from Brown in 2004 after she discovered numerous text messages between him and a cheerleader at Concrete High School.
West said she believed the communication between Brown, then 33, and the high school-age girl was inappropriate. She also decided her eight-year relationship with Brown was wrong.
West said she was 14 in 1996 when she began dating Brown. He was then 26. She met him through a neighbor and hid the relationship from her family. She lied about her age and so did he, she said. She believed she was in love, was flattered by Brown’s attention and didn’t think her parents would understand.
“I was a headstrong teenager,” she said.
The couple married in 2002 when she was 20. Her family wasn’t happy, West said. She became isolated from her family. All her friends were Brown’s friends, said the woman who is now 26.
“I grew up enough to realize it wasn’t normal,” West said. “Now, as an adult, I see that what he did was wrong.”
She filed for divorce in 2004, tried to forget about the relationship and move on. West said memories have flooded back since hearing of the new allegations against Brown.
West knew Brown remarried last year and in 2005 became principal at Highland Christian School. She said she considered calling the school to let them know about the allegations in Concrete, but was afraid and didn’t want to embarrass her family, West said.
West met with Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives Thursday.
Detectives are investigating Brown’s history with previous employers, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Mark Roe said.
The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction was notified of the Snohomish County investigation last week but has no plans to open one of its own because the state doesn’t regulate private schools, spokeswoman Shirley Skidmore said.
There is no record that Brown is a state-certificated educator, and that means state officials have no jurisdiction, Skidmore said. Private school teachers don’t have to be certificated, she added.
About 240 students attend Highland Christian School, kindergarten through 12th grade. Brown is on administrative leave. School board officials who attended Wednesday’s court hearing released a statement that said they “stand behind” Brown. They declined additional comment and referred questions to Brown’s attorney, Karen Halverson. She was not immediately available for comment.
Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or email@example.com.