Schwegler Elementary custodian charged with child sex crimes; district encourages parents to talk to their kids

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The Lawrence school district is encouraging families to talk to their Schwegler Elementary students after the night custodian has been charged with rape of two children, alleged to have occurred between 2008 and 2010.

Lance L. Yoder, now 53, was arrested Thursday and charged Friday with three counts of rape involving two children who would have been between the ages of 10-12 and 14-16 at the time, approximately 15 years ago.

Julie Boyle, spokesperson for the district, informed Schwegler families of the arrest in an email Friday afternoon. She wrote that the district did not receive any information from police indicating that the allegations are connected to Schwegler students or the school.

Yoder has been employed with the district since September 2022, and the district is terminating his employment, Boyle wrote. He was last at work on Wednesday. On his typical work schedule, Yoder arrived at the school an hour before dismissal.

“Even though there is no information linking these allegations to Schwegler school, out of an abundance of caution, we encourage families to talk to their children,” Boyle wrote. “Ask them whether they know Mr. Yoder and whether they have had any conversations or interactions with him. There is no need to share details with young children that may scare or upset them.”

She asked families to contact the Lawrence Police Department at 785-832-7509 and ask to speak to the lead investigator if they learn of anything that concerns them. The school counselor will be available to assist families, provide resources or support them in talking to their children, Boyle wrote.

She wrote that the district knows the news is alarming.

“We encourage everyone to remain calm and to learn as much as we can from one another about any potential safety concerns,” Boyle wrote. “If we can avoid jumping to conclusions without evidence or facts, we can prevent unnecessary panic around a situation that may have little to do with our school community.”

Law enforcement documents indicate that the allegations were reported in January of this year. It is common for investigations of alleged sex crimes to take a month or more before police make an arrest, depending on the circumstances.

Online court records indicate Yoder was formally charged at a first appearance Friday afternoon, and the judge appointed a defense attorney to represent him.

The judge set Yoder’s bond at $100,000 own-recognizance, jail records show; that means Yoder was able to sign himself out of the Douglas County jail and did not have to pay a bondsman to be released. He will have pretrial supervision with house arrest and GPS monitoring, according to jail records.

Yoder’s next court date is set for March 27 in Division 1.

A KBI background check on Yoder did not return any previous arrests or criminal cases in Kansas.

All arrestees and defendants in criminal cases should be presumed not guilty unless and until they are convicted.

Resources for survivors

If you have experienced sexual violence or trauma, please seek the help that’s right for you. There are many options available, and you don’t have to file a police report if you don’t want to.

Get 24/7 help in Lawrence: The Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center
  • Call 785-843-8985 to reach an advocate, 24/7. (Consider saving that number in your phone in case you or someone you know ever needs it.)
  • After an assault: What are my options? Check this page for detailed information about
    • talking to an advocate,
    • going to the hospital,
    • making a police report,
    • and/or talking to a counselor or therapist.
  • On campus? Check this page for specific resources for the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Baker University, Ottawa University and more.
Resources on KU’s campus:
  • Contact the CARE (Campus Assistance, Resource, and Education) Coordinator: Students can make an appointment by email, care@ku.edu, or by calling 785-864-9255. It’s free, confidential and voluntary to talk with the CARE Coordinator. All genders welcome. Read more here.
  • Find more KU campus resources at this link. Specific information about sexual assault exams can be found here.
  • Direct message KU CARE Sisters on Instagram. You don’t need to be affiliated with Greek Life to reach out and/or receive assistance. (Note: CARE Sisters provide peer support and education, but this is not a 24/7 service like others listed here.)
Domestic violence situations: The Willow Domestic Violence Center
  • Reach the Willow for help 24/7 at 785-843-3333.
  • Find more resources on the Willow’s website at this link.
More resources
  • StrongHearts Native Helpline: Call 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) for 24/7 safe, confidential and anonymous domestic and sexual violence support for Native Americans and Alaska Natives that is culturally appropriate.
  • National hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), text “START” to 88788, and/or visit thehotline.org to chat and learn more, 24/7.
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Kaw Valley Almanac for April 22-28, 2024

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