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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 with 11 Comments »
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.

Leave a comment Comments → 11
  1. WEA in action.

  2. Daisydog says:

    The WEA can best be compared to the Corleone family from the Godfather movie series….now it’s not really the WEA that makes it hard to boot bad teachers, it’s the WAC’s that the WEA have helped to develop through intimidation, badgering, lobbying, call it what you may, but some of the laws on the books are so idiotic the only possible way they could get there is through offers that couldn’t be refused. Until Washington State becomes a “right to work” state (You Simply cannot get a job in Washington State, as a teacher, unless you are a card carrying member of the teachers union) , the “mob” will continue to bully and intimidate, while providing it’s “insurance”…

    That’s why it’s so hard to fire a bad teacher.

  3. ratujack says:

    Carefull Kim Bradford..TNT may be in a law suit. Innocent until proven guilty. The Olympian and the TNT could split the costs and split paying the huge judgement. Ya never know!!!!!!

  4. Not sure what you mean, ratujack. This teacher has been convicted of assaulting students and served time for several counts of fourth-degree assault last year. In the eyes of the criminal justice system, he is already guilty.

  5. nwcolorist says:

    Here’s a way to get a a school faculty member fired:

    In the early ’90’s, there was an official school employee (not a teacher) causing serious disruption in a local school. This person had been behaving in a bizarre manner with teachers and students for several months. The teachers, as a group, were seriously concerned, and the parents took up the cause.

    A group of about 15 parents (I was one) met together and decided to personally take this to the school board and speak about the situation. We did this at two or three school board meetings. As I recall, the TNT even did an article on our group’s activities.

    This person was soon removed from the postion and retired at the end of the school year.

    I think a large part of our success was that the board saw this was a cohesive grass roots uprising, and that we were seriously concerned about the future of our children and the school.

  6. It seems clear something is broken and needs to be fixed immediately. We wouldn’t tolerate the same actions amongst co-workers, so why is it that his presence around children is tolerated?

  7. OldLefty says:

    “Washington’s system of teacher discipline certainly has bent over backward to protect Moulton’s rights.”

    Read more:

    Instead of the predictable attacks on the teachers union, try reading the story for the facts. Laws need to be changed and I don’t think you’ll find WEA fighting anything that would protect kids.

  8. blakeshouse says:

    The head of the WEA has stated that they will be concerned what is best for kids when they become dues paying members. The only thing they are interested in is keeping all of their members so the dues money keeps rolling in, doesn’t matter if they are axe murderers or scholastic geniuses. Money and power is what drives the WEA.

  9. Actually, there are checks and balances in place and it is possible to fire a teacher. We had a teacher in a school in Seattle that after one year was let go.

    I have never heard of this happen first hand.

    If this is all part of union bashing agenda to bring in charter schools and Teach for America recruits, forget about it. It’s not going to work.

  10. seattlemama says:

    Ugh, that’s absolutely horrendous. But I know what the real culprit was for keeping him on: district bureaucracy. They just don’t care. There was an assistant principal who was sexually harassed by her boss – and the district’s response was to transfer her. Multiple times. She sued and won. Because that sort of thing isn’t acceptable. The district wasn’t accountable, in either case.

  11. johnearl says:

    @dorainseattle –

    I’m not sure why you would insinuate that this brouhaha is part of some plot to undermine unions or introduce charter schools. Instead it looks like genuine outrage at a system that subjugates the rights of the students to the “rights” of this one particular teacher.

    I don’t think the Morton parents that were protesting had any other agenda than the safety of their children. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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