Detained in Rwanda, Seeking Your Support

The following is from Rhonda Isley:

I know this is a long post. However, it is vital to gain Mark’s freedom. A full reading is appreciated. To be clear, this is an issue with the International School Kigali (ISK) administration and Board for choosing not to do what is right. The issue is NOT with the Rwandan authorities. The Rwandan authorities have been respectful and have treated Mark extremely well.

For the past 7 months my husband, Mark Isley, has been detained in Rwanda, accused by ISK of a criminal act. In the words of ISK: 

“….your malicious act of massively deleting teaching materials, student work, college prep students’ letters of recommendation and other documents necessary for university acceptance; by so doing, you not only frustrated efforts of seamlessly undertaking the handover process to another contractor, but also jeopardized the future of your students vis-d.-vis their academic future.” 

Mark was accused of this crime on November 10, 2021 but continued to work at ISK thru January 31, 2022. The school administration never questioned Mark about missing files.

On March 1, charges were filed against Mark. He was later sentenced to 3 years in prison with 2 years suspended and a 2,000 USD fine. Fortunately, results of his trial in August determined there was no evidence of harm to students or their futures in any way and the civil suit suing him for 10,000 USD related to this was dropped. However, Mark still faces another 2-3 years of detainment while navigating the judicial system to address the deletion of files issue. The evidence shows Mark did not access any files on the day in question, however, he did use his email account.

For context

  • November 9, 2021 Mark was fired by ISK without cause 
  • November 15, 2021 Mark was rehired by ISK and worked until January 31, 2022 
  • February 4, 2022 Mark filed a labor dispute case against ISK with the Inspector General’s office 
  • March 1, 2022 Inspector General determined Mark had a valid case and moved it forward to the Labor Court
  • March 1, 2022 charges were filed against Mark indicating he committed the unlawful act on November 10, 2021. The files in question date back to 2019 and constituted old homework assignments submitted by students via Google Classroom. There were no files relating to letters of recommendation or other documents necessary for university acceptance, no students’ future was jeopardized and Mark met with his replacement teacher prior to his departure to ensure a smooth handover. Any college recommendations that were written were submitted as requested to universities
  • July 31, 2022 at midnight, a civil suit was filed against Mark suing him for 10,000 USD. 
  • August 1, 2022 (8:00 am) Mark’s criminal trial took place in which the civil suit charges were allowed to be presented as part of the case.
  • August 29 Mark was sentenced to 3 years in prison with 2 years suspended and a 2,000 USD fine 
  • August 29 the civil suit suing Mark for 10,000 USD was dismissed due to no evidence indicating students were harmed in any way

Points raised by Mark’s attorneys during the criminal proceedings on Monday, August 1 were as follows:

1. If Mark committed this act on November 10, why did ISK rehire him on November 15 and why did ISK never question Mark about any missing documents while he was employed prior to filing criminal charges 4 months later?

2. What evidence is there of malicious intent? Mark was rehired Nov 15, performed his duties without incident or complaint from ISK and was never informed there was a problem stemming from Nov 10. The first communication Mark received was on March 1 indicating there was a problem with files. 

3. There were no files deleted. All files in question were stored on the ISK server, on the student resource platform, on the College Board website and shared with students. The evidence provided was a simple spreadsheet. 

4. RIB investigation indicated there was no evidence on Mark’s personal laptop that he had accessed the files in question on November 10.

5. The spreadsheet presented as evidence did not show any documents relating to teaching materials or college letters of reference that would jeopardize a student’s future.

6. There was no evidence, or any students identified, as being harmed by the deletion of any files. On the contrary, there is evidence Mark submitted recommendations when asked and all students who applied for university received acceptances.

7. There was no evidence of “frustrated handover” of any responsibilities.

8. On November 10, 2021 other administrators had access to Mark’s email account creating a situation in which other people had access to all documents in question.

9. The timing of criminal charges being filed in March, coinciding with notification from the Labor Inspector General certifying the labor dispute case Mark had filed in early February against ISK, would be moving forward in the judicial system seemed too coincidental.

My thoughts in response to the verdict:

We were quite surprised at the verdict as again:

  • no evidence of malice was presented
  • no evidence of student harm was presented
  • no evidence that the documents in question had anything to do with student college applications or recommendations
  • no evidence that Mark’s laptop accessed the documents in question
  • no acknowledgment that the documents in question, in fact, were never missing as all documents are automatically stored in 4 places: 1. on the school server 2. with individual students in their Google Drives 3. on the school learning management system, Google Classroom 4. on the College Board AP website

Mark is being detained in Rwanda with no opportunity to work in order to support himself. As a 65-year-old man with no health insurance and no family in the country to support his medical needs we are seeking a timely resolution to this process. It is our belief the charges filed by ISK are false charges being used as an intimidation and retribution tactic against Mark because he filed a labor dispute case against ISK. 

Any support that can be provided, on behalf of Mark, is appreciated. Our goal is to have Mark return to the US to regain his health, rebuild his professional reputation, spend time with his 8-month-old grandson and reconnect with family. We are simply bewildered that a 65-year-old career educator with no history of claims against him would be sent to prison by a school for a crime so unsubstantiated.

Mark’s life remains in limbo, with no opportunity to work, no healthcare, nowhere to go, no one there for him, except a lawyer, to take his side. While he navigates the next 2-3 years, we hope your support can help gain his freedom with the charges dropped. 

Mark and I ask for your support:

  1. Contact the International School of Rwanda (Board@iskr.org dharwell@iskr.org ljones@iskr.org) to ask:
  • Why are they trying to send one of their teachers to prison in a foreign country without clear evidence of a crime when they have the ability to support Mark in his appeal to have the case dismissed?
  • How does ISK  justify sending a teacher to prison for harming students and their futures when a judge has already determined there was no harm to students, or their futures and there is no evidence of wrongdoing?
  1. Contact your international educator colleagues to raise their awareness level of how teachers are treated at this school in case they are considering recruiting at this school

As educators, we believe it is imperative to look out for each other as moving to a new school and new country requires a huge leap of faith and trust. We must all demand of ourselves, and our administrative colleagues, respect for ethical treatment so we can continue to enjoy the wonderful professional, and personal, opportunities of our international lives.

Please contact me directly (freemarkisley@gmail.com) if you have any questions as we want you to feel confident when asked to support a cause. 

Comments? Please scroll down

28 thoughts on “Detained in Rwanda, Seeking Your Support

  1. There is probably more to this story than meets the eye and yes, we should be analysing the details. But the fact that it is out in the open is a very good thing. Too many highly unethical schools are all too quick to cover up and throw staff under the bus. Since the horrible incident in Indonesia, management like to remind staff how much it damaged the reputation of the school and their position with the government. They fail to mention the extreme bravery of supporting, clearly, innocent individuals and standing up to a regime. Staff and parents came together for Neil and Ferdi and I believe JIS is now fully recovered from this horrible situation. We need to hear both sides, so we’ll done ISR for informing us and allowing us to form our own opinion .

    Like

  2. All I know is that it is easy for all of us to post judgments on people. Maybe instead of taking sides we can just be glad none of us are in a situation like this and hope things work out for the teacher involved. We do not need to know all of the messy details, nor the family circumstances that split them up, to have the ability, as compassionate human beings, to thank our lucky stars it is not us and be mindful of the level of trust that goes into choosing our next job postings. There are good schools and bad schools…good teachers and bad teachers. Logic tells me something happened to this teacher because nobody would willingly put themselves, or their family, through something like this. We are a community of educators, let’s not tear each other down with judgment. Let’s instead ask how can we look out for and support each other better.

    Like

    1. Wasn’t the whole point of the article for people to take sides? Maybe not the intended outcome that the author anticipated, but still the intention was to allow us all to take sides.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Given the travesty of justice that occurred in Indonesia with a teacher and administrator from the Jakarta Intercultural School being unjustly imprisoned, this article caused real upset for me, I even began to write an email. Then I went to the school website and happened across the letter from the school board. You can read it here: https://www.iskr.org/about/school-board. There is real cause to doubt the credibility of what is written above.
      My biggest question is – have the admin of this site, the ISR team, actually done any research before posting this?

      Liked by 3 people

    1. I did just that and she has a less than steller leadership style. To be honest, even before reading her story, it seemed to be confusing. The first being that no school or anoyone other than border patrol have the power to keep you. And where does border patrol get the idea to hold a foreigner in? You got it, from the directives above.

      Like

  3. This is a very different story of some Americans who get locked up abroad. I mean it looks like all he has to do is leave, no time, but nobody knows why he won’t……

    Secondly and most importantly, why👏🏽is👏🏽 this 👏🏽man 👏🏽alone 👏🏽at 👏🏽65 years old👏🏽👏🏽? If my daddy was facing prison in a foreign country, I would quit my job and go there immediately. I know every family is different, but I have to wonder why this family doesn’t even care enough to be next to this beloved brother, father, grandfather, teacher? Where you at Isleys? ✈️

    I know without a doubt if I ever got in trouble my sisters will be on the next plane out and see me through it all. My husband would never leave my side. Looking at you Rhonda👀!!

    The way I read this, not even his wife, RHONDA, is willing to be by his side, be focused, be selfless, and help him, why should anyone else? Rhonda?

    If my husband, who might be reading this later: leave me and they lock me up for a different crime…just saying. Love ya, mean it

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Having read the post and the school’s reply – schools points seem far more well reasoned and argued than the article’s author.

    Like

  5. I read this, and if it IS 100% true, I am prepared to send this letter (below) to the school administrators. I haven’t done so yet, as I’d invite some feedback first.
    Here’s what I wrote:

    Mr. Harwell, Mr. Jones, ISKR School Board –
    As an international educator, it has come to my attention that an acquaintance of mine, Mr. Mark Isley, is being detained in Rwanda, stemming from some accusations leveled against him by you, your school, and your school board.
    I have learned that you have accused Mr. Isley of deleting files of great importance, yet it has been proven that the only files that were deleted were old/outdated homework files, previously submitted by students.  Therefore, I have several questions:  

    1) What crime was committed if the files were from some time ago, particularly if they were stored electronically?  I’m sure that if they were important to the students who submitted them, those students would have backed up their own files.  Have any students stepped forward with clear explanations and reasons that their old, outdated assignments are of such great importance to them?  It is my experience, after 33 years of teaching, that students almost always throw away/destroy all their old materials at the end of each school year.

    2) If students deemed their homework to be important, I am relatively sure that they have that homework backed up on their personal computers.  If they did not, why not?  It is clear that if they do not have a backup of those files, that the students themselves must have deleted their own files on their personal computers.
     
    3) If students did not back up their own files, how was Mr. Isley supposed to know if students had kept a copy or not?  Was there a requirement for students to inform Mr. Isley or the school which files were personally secured by the students, and which were not?

    4) Is Mr. Isley legally bound to return those files to the students?  If so, is that a clearly-stated school policy?  Was that policy made clear to all teachers prior to this ‘incident’? 

    5) Were school administrators aware of the fact that imprisonment can result for failing to return student assignments?  If so, were teachers made aware of that fact? 

    6) Were all staff members informed that they can be detained, charged, and possibly held for something as simple as failing to return a homework assignment? This vital information should be presented BEFORE the first day of school.

    7) May I please have the exact wording of the law that Mr. Isley supposedly has broken?  I would also like the statute number and any additional references so that I may research this further on Mr. Isley’s behalf.

    8) Do you intend to tell all teachers coming to your school in the future exactly what has happened to Mr. Isley?  Will that information be given in writing, AND verbally at the very beginning of the year, so that something like this can be avoided in the future? 

    9) Finally, Mr. Harwell, and Mr. Jones, how do you intend to hire new staff for your school if something like this can happen on your watch?  It seems abundantly clear from the information that I have received that the school has acted entirely inappropriately, and grossly over-exaggerated the importance of some trivial materials that hold little or no value for anyone, including the students.  After all, for what purpose would students possibly need an old assignment? And, I will say again, if they did their assignment on their computers, that information will still be there.  If it is not, then it is clear that the students themselves deleted their own files.It is my experience, as a student AND as a teacher, that old materials are routinely discarded at the end of the school year.

    I will await your responses Mr. Harwell and Mr. Jones.  If I do not receive an adequate response in relatively short order, I do have the option to share my findings about this matter with other expat teachers, and with the international educators’ forums to which I belong.  I would think it would be quite difficult to find any new teachers willing to work for your school in the future if these allegations against you are true.I am well aware that every story has two sides.  I will be waiting to hear your side, Mr. Harwell and Mr. Jones.

    xxxx.yyyy@gmail.com

    Like

    1. You might want to read the school’s statements in response to this first. While many international schools don’t act ethically to protect their staff, it seems here that it was the government who charged and convicted him (Rwanda has very strong children’s rights laws). Also it seems he is free to leave at any time – he’s not being detained.

      https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vR4SwVJ0ZLrOkNSyTHfoUb1FNaHPsmY7_M_CloC0QyqUmHSCNWoKyixqfbuC5s9czlSB7leodD71T7D/pub?fbclid=IwAR1QQadu8Z0vxRjiTB35oZxWgGmJUFYxzcl-vCd36oXxE_JSkviSWwiPy-4

      Like

  6. Something is fishy about this. What did the wife do at/to the school while she worked there? I am not going to convey support for him or for the school because I don’t know the whole story (only that told by the free spouse). Also I don’t really give a shat about his situation. He ruffled feathers and he now has to deal with the consequences of his actions, and possibly the actions of his spouse.

    Like

    1. To Anonymous. He is free to leave and go back to the USA but he chooses to stay there? Unemployed? Without family? And in a country where he has been persecuted in his opinion? Dont believe it. And the government decided all on it’s own to convict him for deleting files? Where in the world could you imagine this. The school has all the power in this.

      Like

  7. I think you should look at both sides of the coin. As someone who, like me, knows many of the details of the case, I am shocked at how you can just spread this bunch of half-truths on the internet or social media. The man did something that should make every teacher in the world’s hair stand on end: he harmed his students for his own (and his wife’s) personal vendetta. Anyone who glosses over this behavior or defends him without knowing the facts should be ashamed of themselves.

    To make it complete – here are the “facts” from the other side – found on social media:

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vR4SwVJ0ZLrOkNSyTHfoUb1FNaHPsmY7_M_CloC0QyqUmHSCNWoKyixqfbuC5s9czlSB7leodD71T7D/pub?fbclid=IwAR3nELtaVoKi0KJRG8WIiFG9IYtimKbxmmHxAC1M07cxNOW96btzyi7hprE

    Like

    1. So as I read this document it becomes ever clear that the school is sticking it to him. Mark, you are no doubt an administrator at the the school. The whole doc makes the school sound completely innocent. No one believes that the judicial system wanted to go after an international teacher for deleting student files. I mean, if there a crime on the books that covers that? No chance. These schools have the power and ear of the government and act on their behalf. In Dubai, schools can keep you from leaving if you haven’t paid your utilities. They inform the border police and you cant fly out. As I mentioned in a previous post, the guy should have left with his wife and moved on. But let’s not buy the misinformation campaign from the school either. They are vindictive and have turned a simple dismissal into a political event. Dont work at this school, your freedom isn’t worth the risk.

      Like

    2. I read this document and it was pretty convincing. It is clearly written by an administrator or lawyer, but does make a strong argument.

      Some schools can be vindictive as can some teachers. Unless gross judicial misconduct is documented, my default is to side with the law. I don’t know if the Rwandan courts are competent or not, but unless someone presents evidence that it is not competent I will respect their verdict.

      Also, at a former school a teacher accidentally deleted all the files from Google Drive. The school contacted Google and the files were restored. It took 5 days. Seems like something similar could have occurred here, but the AP data might be different. I need more details on that. I’ve not taught AP in 10 years.

      Like

  8. I’m rather confused by this story. Why would he return to a school that fired him without cause just a week earlier? How could he possibly expect fair treatment after that? I hope he gets justice and the warning to other teachers is very much appreciated but I don’t think it’s wise for any teacher to involve themselves in this matter by contacting the school to ask them questions about this. A school capable of retaliating against one teacher because he filed a complaint against them is certainly capable of retaliating against other teachers who email them with complaints or questions. If they have your real name, they can find out where you work and cause trouble for you at your job. Anyway I don’t think sending emails would be an effective way to get the school to listen to reason. Intervention from the US State Dept. seems like your best bet. I would also suggest contacting local media and local politicians to let them know they have a potential diplomatic crisis on their hands. The more negative attention drawn to the school locally, the better. Make sure the parents of the school’s students know what’s being done. Schools hate anything that jeopardizes their reputation with parents and therefore threatens their bottom line. In my opinion, that would be far more impactful than a bunch of emails from random teachers who have zero relationship with either the accused teacher or the school.

    Like

    1. There are thousands of State Dept. employees who are not on the board.

      According to this press release Mark is free to leave the country anytime he likes: https://resources.finalsite.net/images/v1662718669/iskrorg/iixjni6qmivucsgie3rf/ISKSchoolBoardStatement.pdf

      I think that teachers who get unfairly accused by international schools deserve as much support as they can get, but there are clearly a lot of missing pieces to this story that are missing from this article.

      Like

  9. Would any one writing here with experience in the shadowy world of “international schools” actually be surprised by any of this. I’m not. In these so-called “developing countries” the only things being developed are the fortunes of kleptocrats in league with thuggish governments. It is the progeny of that class that one mostly ends up teaching. And now that the IB has become a corrupt commercial enterprise, there’s no protection for academic probity. No ethical teacher should ever go to such places.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You nailed it. You nailed it when you mentioned IB has become a large corporate for profit organization. It is all about money. There are so, so so many IB schools that should not be authorized!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This is a very strange story from both sides. The school is clearly seeking retribution vis-a-vis his charge. And I would imagine the school will have an impossible time holding on to teachers now.
    At the same time, I am bewildered that an experienced international teacher didn’t see this coming. This part of the world is rife with corruption and school administrators often have the ear of government officials. What exactly was he going to gain by filing a complaint with the labour board? Why would he want to go back to that school if he won. Politics dictates that you get out of that country as soon as possible upon dismissal. The international teaching world is full of these countries. Gotta know where fight and when corruption dictates it could cost you your freedom or worse. I hope he gets released soon and he takes the opportunity to fly out immediately.

    Like

    1. The other strange part of this story that I just found online is that his wife who is managing this campaign, is the past director of the school. Sounds like a lot of bad blood between all these individuals. Hard to make sense of all this. It sounds like his wife left but he stayed behind to work. Should have clearly left with his wife earlier.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This is extremely scary, as members of the board have contacts with US Embassy, and being employed at the US Embassy!
    I don’t know what to do!? It seems to be a huge massive human rights violation here!

    Like

    1. Why would this have anything to do with a criminal case that a teacher was found guilty for? The board doesn’t have the authority to file a criminal case against a teacher. I read the Q&As from the school seams like this guy is just pissed he got caught and his wife is spreading rumors all over the internet.

      https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/e/2PACX-1vR4SwVJ0ZLrOkNSyTHfoUb1FNaHPsmY7_M_CloC0QyqUmHSCNWoKyixqfbuC5s9czlSB7leodD71T7D/pub?fbclid=IwAR3nELtaVoKi0KJRG8WIiFG9IYtimKbxmmHxAC1M07cxNOW96btzyi7hprE

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.