Just before the Deer Creek Public Schools Board of Education was supposed to meet Monday night, teacher Sarah Hull-Degroat, who had been suspended for allegedly using Google Docs to have a conversation with a student that was sexual in nature, resigned from the district.
According to the agenda for Monday’s meeting, board members were supposed to take action regarding Hull-Degroat’s employment by possibly setting up a hearing after officials recommended her termination.
However, when they reached the agenda item, assistant superintendent Lenis DeRieux, who serves as one of the district’s Title IX coordinators, told board members they would not need to take action because Hull-Degroat had resigned just an hour prior.
Instead, board members used the agenda item to discuss the ongoing Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office investigation into Hull-Degroat, which includes an allegation from the investigating deputy that the district has been uncooperative now and in the past.
“Has our district fully cooperated with the county sheriff’s office in this investigation?” board member Danny Barnes asked DeRieux.
“One hundred percent,” DeRieux said. “In a very quick time manner.”
That was not the opinion that OSCO Deputy Michael Belanger articulated in his search warrant application, which is embedded below.
“[DeRieux] stated Deer Creek was not able to release the evidence to law enforcement without consent from the parents of the minor student. At the time of this writing your affiant has not been able to get consent,” Belanger wrote. “Multiple times in the past Deer Creek Schools have stated they could not release evidence to us and have threatened to cancel the contract between OCSO and Deer Creek for School Resource Officers if we obtained a search warrant. This evidence is paramount in protecting the known involved minor student as well as possibly other students.”
Barnes, the Deer Creek Public Schools board member, asked DeRiexu about Belanger’s claim.
“And at any time when you were talking to them, was there any discussion about the [Student Resource Officer] contracts at all?” Barnes asked.
“No,” DeRieux replied. “We’ve never had that discussion with them in regards to the search warrant. We have had that discussion with them in the past in regards to their service and what they could provide for us as we would have with any entity that we contract with.”
After Monday’s meeting, Deer Creek Superintendent Jason Perez said his district complied with the sheriff’s office after a judge approved the search warrant.
“Once we received the search warrant, we had all the information ready in less than 10 minutes ready to go,” Perez said. “So we want to cooperate with our law enforcement partners on any investigation.”
In his investigation, Belanger said that while district officials showed officers the evidence they had obtained of Hull-Degroat’s communication with a student, they refused to release it to investigators without permission from the student’s parents.
When officers could not get permission, they filed the search warrant.
“Due to the school withholding evidence in the past and making threats concerning contracts between OCSO and Deer Creek, if a copy of the evidence is the more appropriate means of delivery then said copy should be made in the presence of law enforcement,” Belanger concluded in the affidavit.
Oklahoma County Sheriff Deputy Aaron Brilbeck, the agency’s public information officer, said Sheriff Tommie Johnson is personally working to review the past incidents referenced in Belanger’s recent report. Brilbeck said the situation goes back to prior OCSO administrations and that many of the deputies who were involved no longer work for the agency.
“We are tracking down people to find out what may have happened in the past,” Brilbeck said.
After Monday’s meeting, Perez further clarified the district’s policy with law enforcement.
“It’s pretty basic for us, I mean, it’s open and shut,” Perez said. “There’s two ways we can share student records — one is with parental permission, and the other one is with a search warrant.”
Google Doc communications
According to the affidavit, Hull-Degroat allegedly used her personal Gmail account to share a Google Document with a minor student via their school email address.
Google Docs are online word documents that can be edited by multiple accounts at once, allowing editors to see the changes to the document in real time.
Hull-Degroat and the student had conversation that was “sexual in nature” within the document, according to the affidavit. Belanger also wrote that Hull-Degroat uploaded a nude picture of herself to that document and said that DeRieux told him that Hull-Degroat and the student may have had “sexual contact” previously.
Because Hull-Degroat shared the document with the student’s school account, software on the district’s network flagged certain words and alerted officials to the possibility of inappropriate activity.
In Monday’s meeting, DeRieux said the district is also working on a request to the State Department of Education to revoke Hull-Degroat’s teaching certificate.
Hull-Degroat, who is 23, does not appear to have an online social media presence at the time of this story’s publication. But she did leave more than a dozen Amazon reviews for various items and cosplay costumes between 2017 and 2022.
“It’s well stitched, I love that it’s lightweight but feels real, I love the way the sleeves fall when I lift them, the color is amazing, I’m super psyched for the rest of my cosplay to come in and I would so wear this on a normal day like a cardigan,” Hull-Degroat wrote in May while reviewing a kimono representative of a character in the Demon Slayer series. “It’s going in my regular closet rather than my costume box so I’m thrilled!”