A former Coventry High School teacher charged with threatening school officials had been under investigation for potentially inappropriate relationships with students, Coventry police have confirmed. No charges were filed.
A Middletown High School teacher is also under investigation for a potentially inappopriate relationship. Middletown police and school officials are looking into Patrick Alyward's relationship with a 17-year-old Middletown student after several incidents reported in Middletown, Portsmouth and Fall River.
Todd Gillheeney, 33, of 11 Larchmont Drive, Coventry, was arrested on March 1 after school officials forwarded several tweets from his Twitter account to School Resource Officer Jason Burlingame.
The tweets were deemed threatening/disturbing. Gillheeney, who was recently fired form the school system, was charged with threats to public officials, cyberstalking and crank or obscene phone calls (harassing).
School officials have declined to give the reason for Gillheeney's termination, referring to it only as a "personnel issue."
Prior to his arrest, Gillheeney was the subject of an police investigation beginning Jan. 28, after Asst. Principal Joseph Lucian forwarded to Officer Burlingame reports of a possible inappropriate relationship between Gillheeney and a CHS student. The investigation report references three female students — two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old — in various contexts. Due to their status as minors, the identities need remain confidential. For clarification purposes, the students will be referred to as Student #1, Student #2 and Student #3.
On Jan. 28, the first student told Burlingame that on Jan. 25, another 16-year-old student had confided in her that she had been talking with Gillheeney and that although they were just friends, she felt he wanted "something more." The student was also told that Gillheeney was in the process of ending a relationship with another CHS student (Student #3, 17) that she believed was a sexual, dating relationship.
That day, Burlingame met with Lucian and Principal Michael Hobin. The first student returned to report that Student #2 said Gillheeney kissed her in his classroom.
Hobin arranged meetings with the parents of Students #2 and 3. Student #3's father said his daughter knew Gillheeney, but that he was unaware of anything inappropriate between them. He agreed to release his daughter's cell phone to Off. Burlingame and produced a log containing every call and text sent and received from the phone since Jan. 3. The log showed dozens of calls and more than 1,000 text messages to and from Gillheeney's phone number, which were placed during all hours of the day, including times when school was in session. Student #3 denied any type of inappropriate relationship with Gillheeney.
Student #2 initially denied any type of inappropriate relationship with Gillheeney, saying that she first started texting him to inquire about his rumored relationship with Student #3. She said Gillheeney had given her his number while speaking to him on Facebook.
Police asked Student #2 about the meeting in Gillheeney's classroom. She said she went to visit him to ask about a math assignment. According to the report, she could not recall what question she had asked him or what they had spoken about. She then said that she would be more comfortable speaking with Hobin and Burlingame if her parents left the room, to which they agreed.
Once the girl's parents left, she said "He kissed me." Burlingame confirmed with her that she was referring to Gillheeney and asked if the relationship had ever gone farther than that. She said that it had not. The student told Burlingame Gillheeney's phone number was listed in her phone under the name of a Prout School student and that a few days earlier she and Gillheeney had started to speak "romantically" on the phone through texts and calls. Some of the conversations were sexual in nature, she said. The student also told Burlingame that she had only been talking to Gillheeney since the beginning of December, shortly after she turned 16. Her father signed a consent to search form, allowing Burlingame to take custody of the cell phone.
On Jan. 29, Burlingame brought the two students' phones to RI State Police headquarters and released them to Analyst Britnee Morgan for examination. On Jan. 31, he retrieved the phones and data disks created by the analyst.
According to the report, Student #3's phone contained little information other than Gillheeney's phone number in the contacts. Student #2's phone contained more. Although she had deleted her text messages, she had taken and saved images of several texts, tweets and Facebook messages to and from Gillheeney that appeared to be of sentimental value. The images contained conversations about his feelings for her and were "flirty" in nature, according to reports. No criminal activity was apparent from the information found on the phone.
Later, Burlingame got consent to search both girls' computers. He provided the two laptops to Coventry Police Detective Kevin Harris for examination. Again, nothing of evidentiary value was located on the computers.
Superintendent Michael Almeida confirmed that the School Department was aware of the investigation when it occurred. Due to personnel privacy limitations, school officials have declined to comment on whether or not it was related to Gillheeney's termination.