Former Detroit Lakes High School principal was investigated before resigning
DETROIT LAKES – The principal of Detroit Lakes High School resigned last July after admitting he had viewed pornography on a school-issued device.
Steve Morben resigned after being confronted with evidence that he had used a school-issued computer or iPad to view pornography, according to a school district investigation obtained by The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in an open records request.
The request yielded several pages of Morben’s Web searches.
District officials also took the search records to the Detroit Lakes police to determine whether charges should be filed against Morben. Police declined to pursue charges.
The school district’s investigation also includes copies of emails and instant messages that show Morben had pursued an unprofessional relationship with a subordinate.
Detroit Lakes Superintendent Doug Froke said the material about Morben’s pursuit of the unprofessional relationship was not shared with Morben before he resigned.
However, Froke told The Forum that the relationship between Morben and the district employee was noticeable in the school environment. He did not make it clear whether that was before Morben’s online searches were investigated, or if it was a reflection made in hindsight.
The investigation started July 12, when Froke asked for Morben’s “emails to be checked,” according to the district’s notes about the investigation.
On July 17, the emails were delivered to district officials, as were copies of the Google searches. The material was reviewed by Froke and Human Resources Director Melissa Lunak. Later in the day, Froke met with Morben and told him inappropriate material was found on his work computer, according to the district’s account of the investigation.
According to the district’s notes about the meeting, Morben admitted he had viewed porn on a computer provided by the district.
Morben “was very apologetic and said that all he could picture were the faces of the many people he let down,” according to the district’s notes.
By July 24 he had turned in his resignation, and on July 31 it was accepted by the school board.
Morben, in a letter to The Forum, said his searches for pornography on his school-issued iPad were made at three out-of-town educational conferences.
The bulk of the material turned over by the Detroit Lakes School District focuses on Morben’s half of text and instant messages conversations and emails to a female school district employee. The communications between Morben and the unidentified woman are heavily redacted, with none of the woman’s replies included.
The redactions make it impossible to determine if Morben’s banter with the subordinate was ever unwanted, or if his attentions were encouraged.
Morben said the text messages, instant messages and emails sent to “a co-worker” were only uncovered after he had resigned.
He said he believes reporting what he had done in Detroit Lakes at this juncture is unfair.
“But those who know me well also know that I am a person of character and integrity and I believe that I have shown only those traits to my previous school district and my community in how I’ve carried myself in the seven months since I resigned,” Morben said in the letter sent in mid-February.
A check into Morben’s background found no criminal issues or civil lawsuits.
To date, no lawsuits appear to have been filed against the Detroit Lakes School District related to Morben’s relationship or communications with his subordinate.
Morben’s attorney, Kristi Hastings of Pemberton Law Firm in Fergus Falls, said Morben has been working as a substitute teacher.
Froke said that as far as he knows, Morben is not working as a substitute teacher for Detroit Lakes schools.
Morben says on his profile on LinkedIn, a professional networking website, that he’s still interested in working as a secondary school principal but willing to work in other fields.