Van Haalen pleads guilty and receives deferred sentence

Former Friday Harbor Elementary School Principal Caspar van Haalen pleaded guilty to one count of indecent exposure at an arraignment turned sentencing hearing in the San Juan County District Court on June 16.

“I’m not suggesting he is a victim of anything, but perhaps his own bad judgment, but he has paid his price already,” Defense attorney Mark Kaiman said. “His career is over. He will not work as an educator again because of this.”

According to court documents, van Haalen, 58, of Friday Harbor, “knowing such conduct was likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm, did intentionally make an open and obscene exposure of his person” to two adult women aboard a Washington State Ferry on its way from Anacortes to Friday Harbor on May 23. The charge is a misdemeanor.

Judge Carolyn Jewett followed the state’s recommended sentencing of a two-year deferred sentence during which time van Haalen must attend at least six therapy sessions regarding the allegations, receive probation supervision and abide by the law. If, after two years, van Haalen has successfully completed his therapy and probation without any new offenses, he can petition the court for his guilty plea to be withdrawn and the case dismissed. The two-year review is set for 9 a.m. on June 14, 2023.

One of the victims wrote a sentencing statement wherein she said she believes his actions were “calculated and well-rehearsed” and that he should not work with children or vulnerable adults again.

“I am not the victim here, this is something I brought unto myself.. … It’s very sad to hear that somebody that does not know squat about the difference that I’ve made in the lives of thousands of kids, families, hundreds of staff members that I’ve worked with over the years,” van Haalen said in response. “It pains me to hear these things being said about me because they’re conjecture, they’re based on what somebody perceives, how somebody perceived me to be. This is career-ending. This is all I know, making a difference in the lives of kids. This is something that happened in my personal life. My personal life.”

Van Haalen noted that the school likely did a full investigation into his work devices and found nothing because, he said, he’s not a predator and only ever wanted to help children. Judge Jewett suggested van Haalen take a good look inward to find out how to get out of the hole he’s in. She said she believes she can turn the situation around if he’s committed to taking responsibility for his crime.

“You just told the court that you would never harm children or adults. You already have harmed adults. That’s why we’re here in court today, because you did things that caused harm to other people. And whether or not you’re ready to accept that, your actions have harmed these two individuals. I can’t speak to any of your history, but what I do know is that as an educator you must know better than anyone else the stakes of violating the public trust. You must have a better knowledge than anyone else [of] the horrific consequences that could occur if you were to do something that would violate someone’s personal sense of safety. And yet you chose to take these actions in your own backyard – not next to the elementary school — but this is a community that you live in, that you work in, and you chose to take these actions in that community. So, I feel confident that if you’re committed to seeking out the reasons why you made those choices with a therapist that you might have a better understanding of how you can move forward here. … If you are truly committed to changing the lives of others, you can change your own life. You can do it. You have the power within you to turn this into a positive situation — not only for yourself but for other people.”