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What does it take to get a bad teacher out of the classroom?

Post by Kim Bradford on Sep. 16, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
October 22, 2010 5:55 pm

Back when Michael Moulton was in the news, I requested the Morton teacher’s disciplinary file from the state’s Office of Professional Practices. The state sent me the records today.

They’re doozies. You could say that Moulton has a problem with boundaries: He is apparently incapable of keeping his hands off students or consistently exercising sound judgment. The district and state have long known this about Moulton, yet have done little until recently to shield students.

Washington issued Moulton a teaching certificate in 1992 and according to state records, it didn’t take long for students to start complaining about him. In 1997, Moulton received a written reprimand for, among other things, asking students to rub or scratch his back and getting students to “sing songs with students’ names in a derogatory manner.”

Moulton received another warning in 1999 from the Morton superintendent for calling two female high students inappropriate nicknames, saying he loved them and touching them on the back, shoulders, arm and waist.

Moulton was back in the dog house in 2001 for allowing the story, Coyote and the Two Frog Women, to be read to his elementary school classroom. (I’m not going to post the details, but suffice it to say, it’s not something I’d want my fourth grader hearing. if you want the gist, go here). Moulton was suspended without pay for five days and later received a reprimand from the state.

During the 2004-2005 school year, the district received a rash of complaints about Moulton, including that he had rubbed girls’ shoulders, backs and arms; hugged a girl from behind; touched or grabbed a girl’s side; patted a girl’s shoulder; rubbed boys’ and girls’ shoulders; put his hands on girls’ shoulders; touched girls’ waists; put his hands onto a girl’s hand and interlocked fingers; poked girls’ sides; pulled a girl’s hair; put his arm around a girl with his hand on her shoulder; and slapped the back of a boy’s head.

The state eventually (in 2007) issued a reprimand that cited the behavior. The reprimand also took note of Moulton being arrested in 2005 for fourth-degree assault against his own teenage children, as well as a 2005 police report filed by the parents of a middle school student who alleged Moulton had inappropriately touched her.

A month before the state made its finding, the Morton superintendent sent Moulton a letter about students complaining that he had been touching their shoulders and necks during class time. One student alleged Moulton had looked up her cheerleading skirt. The district couldn’t confirm the reports and issued no discipline. Later that same school year, the school principal was notified that Moulton had made a profane gesture toward a female student.

Finally, in 2008, the Morton Police Department got involved after receiving multiple reports of Moulton touching female students against their express wishes. That led to Moulton’s eventual Alford plea admitting the strength of the state’s case but not his guilt, as well as jail time and the school district’s unsuccessful attempt to fire him.

Yet, even after all that, Moulton was headed back to the classroom as late as last month. That is, until the community got wind of his return and raised a ruckus, forcing state schools chief Randy Dorn to fast-track the resolution of the state’s third investigation of Moulton. In an editorial this week, our sister paper, The Olympian, raised the ugly specter of Moulton returning to the classroom. He can legally teach if he decides to pursue an appeal of the state’s decision to suspend his teaching certificate.

Incredible. Washington’s system of teacher discipline certainly has bent over backward to protect Moulton’s rights. Can’t say the same degree of care has been expended to safeguard the students who keep finding themselves in his clutches.

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