Editorial: Children in Albert Lea, everywhere deserve better 

Published 8:51 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Albert Lea school board did the right thing for students Monday when it voted in a special meeting to terminate high school counselor and girls’ basketball coach RJ Polley, who is facing a charge of criminal sexual conduct with a student. 

Through its own internal investigation, the district says it found that not only was there evidence to corroborate the claims of misconduct, but also that Polley was not honest on his job application with the school district in November 2021. 

On the application, Polley stated his former employment through South Washington County Schools in Woodbury ended in May 2021, but in actuality it ended the month prior when he resigned on April 23, 2021. He also falsely stated he had never been asked to resign a position and that he had never resigned to avoid termination, said school board Chairman Neal Skaar. 

In a letter sent to Polley about the termination, Skaar said the Albert Lea school district investigation found that Polley resigned from South Washington County Schools to avoid termination when the school was conducting an investigation into allegations against him. 

As part of the resignation agreement, all of the claims against him would be released — thus, no potential charges ever came out of the situation and no mark would be found against him on a background check. 

Also, because things were handled in this manner, no public action was ever taken at the school board level beyond accepting his resignation mixed in with a list of other staffing changes. Had this been done differently, it could have forewarned any other school districts about potential problems. 

We believe that had Polley’s former school district not dismissed the allegations, the Albert Lea district would likely not be dealing with what it is today. 

Though the nature of any allegation at South Washington County Schools has not been released, it is clear that whatever it involved was a fire-able offense.

Our children in Albert Lea, as well as children everywhere, deserve better, and we support changes on both the local and even state levels to make sure something like this does not happen again — especially for a person in authority at a school.