KIRO slammed for investigation into Leschi Elementary janitor

KIRO TV’s Chris Halsne is getting some serious pushback against a series of reports that more or less accused Leschi Elementary janitor of physically assaulting students, a claim the district, the janitor, his union and some parents of Leschi Elementary students deny.

The Washington News Council, a media watchdog group without any actual punitive power, conducted a mock trial of Halsne’s reporting and determined that he and the station owe Chester Harris an apology. The proceedings were recorded by TVW:

The Stranger has been all over KIRO about the report, even digging into Halsne’s legal history (in one of Halsne’s reports, he lists all the crimes for which Harris has been charged but not convicted).

KIRO’s report was based on interviews with some concerned parents and grandparents of students who say Harris has pushed and otherwise bullied their kids.

Are you part of the Leschi Elementary community? Do you think KIRO owes Harris an apology?

20 thoughts on “KIRO slammed for investigation into Leschi Elementary janitor

  1. I think you meant Halsne, not Hansen. Chris Hansen is the To Catch A Predator guy and we should probably look into his legal history too! :)

  2. Haha! Wow, that was a weird slip on my part. I did not even make that connection consciously (but clearly my unconscious was thinking about it). Too weird. Thanks for the catch, I fixed it.

  3. As A member of the amazing Leschi school family, I can attest that Chester Harris is an asset to our community. But I really don’t need to do that – anyone who watches Halsne’s so-called “investigative” reports can see that they are so egregiously out of line with even minimal standards of journalistic practice (let alone basic standards of fairness and integrity) that any picture they paint of Mr Harris must be flat-out wrong. How this idiot Halsne has a job would be beyond me, except that KIRO refuses to retract or apologize for the story, or even to remove it (complete with secretly filmed video of our students and Mr Harris) from its website – which explains his continued employment – sleazeballs standing behind sleazeballs. Seriously, if you have any interest in accurate, responsible reporting, DO NOT watch KIRO – and let their advertisers and owners know it too.

  4. Not only is Chris Halsne’s report slanderous, it’s based on the testimony of one family, presented as two separate families in Mr Halsne’s laughable ‘investigative’ report. The family in question has a long standing grudge against the school and one of the parents ‘interviewed’ actually has a restraining order against her that prevents her coming onto school grounds because of her long history of harassing the staff at the school. The same family also approached KING5 with the story and that newsroom had the good sense to turn it down.
    An apology is the absolute bare minimum that Mr Harris is due. He is a beloved member of the Leschi community and has handled himself with grace and dignity throughout this entire debacle. I’m with LeschiParent above: BOYCOTT KIRO 7!

  5. A kid’s mother can be a behavior problem without the child’s story being a lie. The two do not, automatically, go hand in hand. A child should not be punished or have his/her credibility automatically discounted because he/she has the misfortune of coming from an apparently notorious family. If the Janitor is accused of violent or intimidating behavior his criminal record, arrests and convictions alike, are relevant.

  6. No one has said the child was lying. The fact that the family in question has a longstanding grudge against the school was not reported and this is very problematic when you consider the basic ethics and good practice of journalism. Any accusations made against Mr Harris were thoroughly investigated by the District and found to have no weight. No one has said anything to discredit or hurt any children at all, except maybe KIRO who still have video of Leschi pupils, taken without permission, on their website.

  7. I just want to clarify the most important parts of this story. Chris Halsne did not bother to check his sources. He should have known or did know that the complaints came from one family. KIRO deliberately left out information that differed from their narrative including deleting comments from parents who were supportive of Mr. Harris. The incidents of which Mr. Harris was accused occurred in front of other adults and staff. KIRO did not bother to check with these other sources to verify what had happened. KIRO also filmed children, including children who are in foster care and posted their faces on their website. This is not illegal but most news organizations respect the privacy of children and would not put them in harm’s way for a story. There are many more egregious aspects to this story but those are the major ones.

  8. But 7 arrests? Even if you chalk half up to racism, as is implied in other articles, 3 or 4 actual arrests and 1 conviction? Not sure I’d want someone with an arrest record of 3-7 arrests around my kid. Something more going on here that folks are not wanting to see.

  9. The arrests date back to 1997 and nothing has occurred since 2002. There is nothing going on that the parents of Leschi don’t want to see. I think that the arrest record is precisely why KIRO chose to air this story. Mr. Harris was more vulnerable than the other staff members and parents who have also been accused by the family. KIRO recognized that an African American man with an arrest record fits neatly into the narrative they created. As a parent I do want my children to know that you can make mistakes even lots of mistakes but you can recover and be an important part of the community.

  10. So a janitor helped some kids resolve a problem, and nobody is complaining about how he did it. This was all done in front of other adults. There is no weird back hallway/bathroom sub story. Really? – let me know if I missed something. What in the world is Kiro doing?

    So a black guy had some arrests. I only know a couple who haven’t. I made it 35 years until I got arrested for theft of my own underwear from my own house, litterally. (ugly dishonest domestic disolution). Cop was a small town chump and former partner of my ex’s new man, charges were dismessed. In other words – “charges” have no place in discussion. He was either convicted or not. It is disgusting to slander a man on un proven, un substatiated bs. What ever he did was not important enough for society to convict him.

    The guy has a decent job and interacts well and above the expectations for a janitor, I’m assuming that the place is kept pretty clean – nobody says he is lazy or that whole land mine.

    Way to bring a man down. Hope he is OK.

  11. Father to 2 Leschi children here. One thing that’s lost in all this is how disruptive this event has been to the teachers and students at Leschi Elementary. I was volunteering at school the day the news dropped and I can tell you it was on the minds of every adult in the building. It has since simmered down, but I know that Ms. Toner, the school principal, has spent lots of effort dealing with this. She should be focused on the success of her students, not some bullshit like this.

    Furthermore, the reporter entered the school and took video without permission, which is a crime. It’s beyond me why he is not being held accountable for this. Luckily he’s merely a leech on society, but what if someone who’s actually a physical harm to the children gets the idea that this is an acceptable thing to do?

  12. I have been watching this story, spoke to some other parents at the school and found some interesting information about this guy. He was a janitor at Chief Sealth High School where he was internally transferred because of a theft issue of school district policy. How he still has a job is beyond me. As for his history, KIRO gave to light information that no one knew about this guy. Giving alcohol to a minor, domestic assault!! Maybe the video wasn’t the best but the concerns of both the parents were warranted. The fact that the children had to continue attending a school with this guy roaming the halls is quite alarming. I actually feel that the parents involved need to look into how the head secretary went to a town hall meeting and slandered the family and giving confidential information only a school district personnel would have knowledge. The video was not taken on school grounds so there is no trespass issue, the only crime is that they should have blurred the childrens faces. If someone grabbed or mishandled my children….you better believe I would be all over that school, especially if there was a pattern of his behavior. Ask the principal about a third incident regarding the same janitor. Kudos for KIRO bringing to light his sleezy background!!!! #madisonvalleymom

  13. Yes unfortunately the video was most likely not taken on school grounds and therefore not illegal.KIRO was very careful about what they did. The trouble with Mr. Harris had happened years ago. No confidential information was given in the town hall meeting. The family chose to go to KIRO and Ms. Stout simply gave information that KIRO ignored. It was not slanderous at all. Even someone who does not know the family could guess that the accusations are false by simply paying attention to the story For example, in the report Mr. Howard claimed that Mr. Harris pushed his kindergartner granddaughter and he felt too intimidated to intervene. That is probably the most laughable part of the whole thing. Can any parent imagine bringing your child back to a school where your granddaughter had been pushed? I certainly wouldn’t.Obviously the family did not actually feel threatened. They were just angry. In the end I hope we can move together as a community. I hope the family can learn new ways of problem solving outside of intimidating and attacking staff and family of Leschi.

  14. Patently false. He was NOT removed from Sealth. He was promoted out of Sealth. Quit the misinformation.

  15. Check your sources. I have a friend that worked at the school and he WAS investigated for theft. HE asked for a transfer. Slander:A false and defamatory statement concerning another. Stout made slanderous remarks about the family in question releasing a false statement that the mother involved has a restraining order and she can’t come on school property. FALSE. She also made claims that the parent has made numerous complaints on staff at the school. Only someone that is previed to such information would say such. The fact that she stated so much confidential information regarding the family makes me think she actually has a personal grudge. I wonder how Seattle Public Schools feels about an employee representing them going to a town hall meeting and releasing information about a family of SPS??

  16. Again, what is this about. There seems to be no complaint about the actions of the janitor. Just another video editted out of context like so many others. Poor journalism. Using a 10 second clip to get a rise. KIRO is trolling.

  17. Checking sources is always a good idea and one thing that KIRO did not do. Otherwise this story would never have been aired. The one good thing about this situation is that it has shown the character of our community. Mr. Harris has done his job extremely well and behaved professionally throughout his time at Leschi. The community could have kept silent and allowed this injustice to occur without responding. We did not. It shows that as a community we will not allow bullying whether it happens on the playground or on the TV.

  18. My daughter attended Leschi for 3 years and when I shared this story with her she was very upset. Chester is a great man, I know this because he has protected my daughter from being bullyied in the past. I know he has many parents that will back him up and attest to his character! It is terrible that he is being protrayed this way. If no aplology is made, the least KIRO could do is let this horrible reporter go!!!!