Substitute bus driver, a former teacher, arrested for child porn

May 15, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Andrew Rekdahl

Issaquah School District and Eastside Catholic High School officials sought to reassure parents and students May 11 after federal agents arrested a substitute bus driver for the Issaquah district and former Eastside Catholic teacher for possession of child pornography.

Andrew Bernard Rekdahl, 29, faces child pornography charges after federal prosecutors said the Carnation resident shared explicit images and videos of boys online from his home computer.

Department of Homeland Security agents arrested Rekdahl at a school district facility May 10 after a monthslong sting operation.

Federal prosecutors charged him with one count each of possession and distribution of child pornography. If convicted, he faces up to 40 years in prison.

Rekdahl served as a substitute bus driver for more than a dozen routes throughout the school district between Nov. 14 and May 10 and as a science teacher at Eastside Catholic in Sammamish from 2005 to June 2010.

Officials at the school district and the parochial school said no complaints occurred against Rekdahl at either organization.

“This is obviously a very serious charge, and our first priority is making sure that he acted as a professional at all times while driving for us,” Issaquah School District Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said in a message to parents.

Rekdahl served as a substitute teacher at Eastside Catholic once after he lost his job due to budget cuts.

What to know

Issaquah School District administrators asked parents with concerns about substitute bus driver Andrew Bernard Rekdahl to email DriverConcerns@issaquah.wednet.edu. The district also posted a list of affected bus routes at www.issaquah.wednet.edu/ documents/transportation/  routes.pdf.

“Eastside Catholic is not presently, nor has it ever been, aware of any concerns regarding Mr. Rekdahl’s conduct during his association with our school,” Sister Mary Tracy, Eastside Catholic president, said in a message to parents.

Rekdahl was a well-liked teacher at Eastside Catholic. In 2010, students and parents raised more than $17,000 to support him as he underwent treatment for aggressive duodenal carcinoma, or cancer of the small intestine.

In a customary procedure for bus drivers, school district officials cleared Rekdahl through mandatory state and federal background checks before he started driving in November. Both background checks accurately indicated a clean record.

Federal agents told school district officials no evidence exists to indicate any inappropriate or illegal activities occurred as Rekdahl worked for the district.

Following the arrest, school district administrators immediately stopped employing him with future substitute assignments.

The district is also investigating footage of him driving on bus routes. Officials confirmed he never activated or used his employee email account.

In May 2011, a federal agent created an undercover account on a peer-to-peer file-sharing website to target users sharing child pornography.

In January, the agent noticed a user named Hboyandy sharing explicit videos through the file-sharing website. Then, using a publicly available software program, the agent identified the IP address of Rekdahl’s computer.

The next day, the agent requested information from Comcast for the subscriber information attached to the IP address.

In April, Hboyandy again made explicit images and videos available for sharing through the file-sharing website.

The agent then obtained Rekdahl’s driver’s license photo from the state Department of Licensing and matched the photo against Rekdahl’s Facebook page.

In early May, the agent conducted surveillance on Rekdahl’s residence in Carnation and checked to see if somebody else shared the files through an unsecured Wi-Fi network attached to Rekdahl’s IP address. The only unsecured account near the home came from the nearby Carnation Library.

On May 9, the agent obtained a search warrant, and the next day, federal agents and Duvall-Carnation police officers searched the home and located multiple digital media storage devices. Rekdahl was not at home during the search, and agents entered the residence through the unlocked front door.

Investigators searched a laptop computer at the scene and discovered 194 files of child pornography.

Following the search, agents interviewed Rekdahl at a school district facility in Issaquah. During questioning, he admitted to sharing child pornography online. Agents arrested him at about 10:30 a.m.

The next day, as the school district and Eastside Catholic faced questions about the arrest, administrators used the Internet to share information and address parents’ concerns.

“We also believe it important to highlight on this sad occasion that Eastside Catholic maintains strong policies to address any inappropriate conduct by our staff,” Tracy said. “This is consistent with our unwavering commitment to the safety of our students and community as well as long-standing resolve to fulfill our Catholic educational mission.”

The school district posted a list of Rekdahl’s bus routes. The substitute bus driver covered routes throughout the district, serving elementary, middle and high schools.

The district stretches from Preston to Newcastle, and from Sammamish to Renton, and includes 107 school bus routes.

The district employs 24 substitute bus drivers, but only 10 are available every day at all times of day. The others are available sporadically throughout the month. District officials did not specify Rekdahl’s availability, citing personnel privacy policies.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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