SNHU says it wouldn’t have recommended fired employee teach ‘in any capacity’

  • CHS teacher Joshua Harwood was arrested Thursday on several charges, including prostitution involving a minor and possession of child sexual abuse images. Concord Police Department

Monitor staff
Published: 2/8/2021 2:28:46 PM

Southern New Hampshire University fired Joshua Harwood less than one year before he was hired by the Concord School District to teach high school business classes. However, SNHU officials say they did not provide a reference or recommendation letter for Harwood and would not have recommended he be hired to teach in the Concord School District.

Harwood was arrested last week and is accused of soliciting sex from a child under the age of 18, two counts of prostitution and solicitation to commit sexual contact, endangering the welfare of a child, possession of child sexual abuse images and two counts of manufacture of child sexual abuse images

“Over the past two days, SNHU reviewed all university records and we can confirm that no SNHU administrative official provided a reference or recommendation for Harwood,” the university’s statement reads. “SNHU takes these matters seriously, and if an SNHU official was contacted the university would not have recommended that Harwood teach in any capacity. SNHU will cooperate with authorities on the ongoing investigation as needed.”

Harwood worked at SNHU from January 2016 to April 2019, when he was terminated.

“Per university policy, we cannot provide additional details of Harwood’s cause for termination,” said Lauren Keane the associate vice president for communications at SNHU.

The prosecutor in the criminal case against Harwood said he was fired from his job at Southern New Hampshire University after an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct with a university student. The SNHU student alleged that in March 2019, Harwood sent explicit photos of himself in his office to the student, while making advances of a sexual nature, and inviting the student to his office to engage in sexual acts. Harwood appealed the university’s decision at the time, claiming his electronic device was hacked. The university reviewed his appeal, but upheld its decision to terminate his employment.

It’s unclear if SNHU reported Harwood to the police or notified the state Department of Education.

Harwood began teaching business at Concord High School at the start of the 2020 fall semester.

Interim Superintendent Kathleen Murphy said she will review the district’s hiring of Harwood to make sure procedures were followed correctly. Murphy said it’s part of Concord hiring protocol to review three letters of recommendation and do three reference checks with former employers.

“The recent incident in the district involving the high school teacher is beyond despicable and disgusting and I will be relentless in reviewing the process and understanding why the district was unaware of all of the background information,” Murphy said in a letter to the community Sunday.

The district’s hiring process begins with advertising the open position, accepting applications and reviewing them. Some applicants are selected for interviews, which are conducted by individual school building personnel. When a final candidate is chosen, the district asks them to provide three letters of recommendation. Administrators are required to complete three reference checks via telephone to former employers, or the applicant’s university if they’re a first-time teacher. These reference checks “delve into the skills, performance and qualities of the candidate in their previous settings,” according to Murphy.

Next, the candidate meets with the superintendent or assistant superintendent for a final interview and an additional reference check. Once the interview process is complete, the district presents the candidate to the school board for approval. Once approved by the board, the new employee undergoes a criminal record check by State Police and the FBI before they can begin work.

Harwood was approved unanimously by the Concord School Board in a meeting on May 4, 2020 along with seven other employees, according to meeting minutes. Harwood’s defense attorney said in court that Harwood did not have a criminal record.

Dr. Frank Bass was interim superintendent of the district at the time Harwood was hired. Bass took over in September 2019, after longtime superintendent Terri Forsten was fired following an investigation into district’s response to complaints of inappropriate behavior by former teacher Howie Leung, who was arrested on rape charges and is currently awaiting trial in Massachusetts. Murphy took over from Bass in July, 2020.

Harwood will appear in court next on Tuesday, Feb. 9. SNHU said it will cooperate with the criminal investigation “as needed.”

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