NJ police investigate activists who released undercover teacher drug video
HOWELL — An undercover video that appears to show a middle school teacher bragging about using cocaine and avoiding detection by cops has sparked two investigations by this township's police. One on the teacher — and another on the activists responsible for the video.
The video was released this week by Project Veritas, a conservative group known for targeting public officials and organizations with secretly recorded encounters.
The video has resulted in the paid suspension of gym teacher Robert Klein, New Jersey 101.5 reported Thursday.
Now Klein is under investigation by local police, who are "looking at this as a criminal matter from two angles," Police Chief Andrew Kudrick said Thursday evening.
"One, the conduct of the teacher who appeared to be engaged in illegal drug activity. And two, the actions of the reporter who gained access to the school using a fictitious name and under false pretenses."
Kudrick did not yet return a call yet to determine what charges he may be pursuing in his investigations.
Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe appears in the video as "Bill Stern" from a shell company called "New Star Learning," and presents Klein the "Stay Ahead Award" during an assembly inside the school.
Klein, the full time health and gym teacher Project Veritas identifies in the video, is seen offering drugs to two undercover project investigators after checking them for a wire.
“Let’s go. Let’s go have drinks. If you want some blow you can have a bump. You can do whatever you want,” he says after checking them for a wire.
The 18-year-veteran also says he has drugs at his home but never in his car. Klein is not seen using drugs in the video.
The group said the video was filmed in an Atlantic City hotel room during the New Jersey Educators Association conference in November 2015.
Kudrick called Klein's behavior "disturbing" but said that the matter was handled properly by Howell school superintendent James Isola.
"It's important to understand there is no indication the teacher used or possessed illegal drugs while on school property. He was cooperative. The district and police department took immediate steps to address this matter including security measures and having a visible police presence at the school."
Kudrick acknowledged that Klein was present at assemblies with police dogs present but denied that police ever gave him a "heads up" about drug searches at the school.
"We have never conducted drug sweeps of the middle school with our narcotics dog. In fact, if we would have known about this earlier prior to it being made public, we could have taken proactive enforcement action. Now, that cannot be done."
O'Keefe was also taken to task by the chief for not reporting Klein to police immediately.
"Instead, they delayed several months then used trickery and deceit to present him with a 'tongue and cheek' award. The reporter initially tricked the school staff, then the students. He took time away from their class. They applauded the teacher as he got this award. This was solely a publicity stunt. Shame on you."
Kudrick also said that Project Veritas tried to "bait" Middle School South Interim Principal Michael D'Anna for a comment by posing as a parent.
In a video of the conversation, O'Keefe coaches one of his staffers through a conversation with D'Anna who explains that Klein will not return to class for the duration of the school year which ends on June 21. D'Anna told the "parent" that he "absolutely" found the video disturbing and he did not know of its existence until it was posted late Wednesday.
"It certainly wasn't a good morning."
He said that other parents had called to express their concern about the video.
In response to a question about how O'Keefe could get access to the school building in order to present a fake award, D'Anna says that the visitor was never left alone in the school.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com