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Arrest warrant issued for former St. Paul principal now with Roseville

Posted by: Chao Xiong under Public safety Updated: August 30, 2014 - 8:33 AM

Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for a Roseville Area Schools principal charged with failing to report the alleged sexual misconduct of a St. Paul Schools custodian when she worked for St. Paul.

Beth A. Behnke, 48, was charged on July 14 in Ramsey County District Court via summons, and ordered on Aug. 13 to turn herself into the Ramsey County jail for booking within 14 days. In cases such as Behnke's, defendants are photographed, booked into the county jail and then released the same day on their own recognizance.

Defendants are not kept in custody overnight in such cases.

The arrest warrant issued Thursday said Behnke failed to turn herself in by the deadline. Her attorney, Peter Wold, said Saturday that Behnke turned herself in on Monday, but the computer system was down and did not register it. He said he tried to reach authorities late Friday but was unable to.

Behnke is charged with one count of failing to report the maltreatment of a minor for not calling authorities about Walter J. Happel while she was principal at Linwood Monroe Arts Plus School in St. Paul during the 2011-2012 school year.

Behnke is currently principal at Falcon Heights Elementary School with Roseville Area Schools.

Craig A. Guidry, 52, was assistant principal at Linwood Monroe under Behnke, and faces the same charge involving Walter Happel. Jail records show that Guidry turned himself into authorities on Monday.

Guidry is currently assistant principal at Jackson Elementary School in St. Paul.

Wold represents both Behnke and Guidry.

Guidry and Behnke allegedly knew that longtime St. Paul custodian Walter Happel had a history of misconduct with young boys, including following one boy into the bathroom and exposing his genitals to the student. But they allegedly failed to report a 2012 incident in which Happel smacked another boy's buttocks, according to charges filed against them.

Minnesota law requires people such as educators and clergy, among others, to report suspected physical or sexual abuse within 24 hours of learning about the allegation.

Happel resigned from the district this year when an 11-year-old boy told school officials in February that the custodian peeked at him while he was using a bathroom stall. That investigation led authorities to charge Happel in a total of eight cases, six of them involving students at Linwood Monroe.

Charges allege that Happel peeked at students in the bathroom, spoke suggestively to students and pressed his penis onto one boy's buttocks, among other allegations. Two cases against Happel allege that he raped a family friend and a relative more than 30 years ago. 

Happel's cases are pending.

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