Teacher sex abuse in Oregon


The likes of John McPartlin and Joseph Billera made headlines in Oregon when they were arrested for sexually abusing their students.

McPartlin, a math teacher and basketball coach, was sentenced in 2005 to 13 years in federal prison for soliciting sex on the Internet with underage boys, including students at Clear Creek Middle School in the Gresham-Barlow School District.

Sexual abuse plagues —

Federal prosecutors said they identified 11 boys he solicited, touched or had sex with. One youth told prosecutors he got $2,000 for sex, at $200 an encounter. Others told police he offered them money to videotape them masturbating.

Billera, a band teacher, was sentenced, also in 2005, to 12 years in state prison after he was accused of sexually abusing students. Investigators identified four girls and said the offenses occurred over four years, ending in 2002, at Houck Middle School in the Salem-Keizer School District.

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They were among 109 teachers disciplined by Oregon's teacher license agency in the years 2001-2005, which The Associated Press inspected as part of a national project. Some of those teachers made little or no news, although their behavior was worthy of reprimand, suspension or loss of a state license. Among them were teachers who:

— Jerked up a student's shorts, exposing her butt cheeks to the boy's basketball team, and commented on the color of her thong.

— Used his chin to massage an exchange student staying in his residence.

— Sent romantic e-mail to a boy and gave him money to travel to Seattle for a weekend with her.

— Resigned after a boy's mother found an "overly personal" letter to her son while doing his laundry.

— In a motel room at an out-of-town swim meet showed female students a video of a male showering; videotaped a female student in a shower, with the girl's knowledge; sent photos of naked males from the district's computer to the girl; and sent pictures of his genitals to a female student.

Not all the cases involved student victims. The records of sexual misconduct also document educators who had sex with each other on school grounds during school hours, accessed Web porn on school computers, peeped into the toilet stalls of Interstate rest areas, or trolled the Internet for sex with children out of state.

The number of teachers disciplined for sexual misconduct over the five years in the study is almost certainly greater than 109, but in some cases the public records of the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission aren't explicit about the reason for the discipline.

And, as with many crimes, some authorities exercise discretion, for good or ill.

"If you had an 18-year-old student dating a 25-year-old teacher in Portland, that would be pretty hard to hide," said Geoge Finch, coordinator of professional practices for the commission. "But in another district, they might say that's consensual and not report it."

Nevertheless, the state records provide the best overall look at the scope and nature of the sexual abuse that teachers visit on students and others in Oregon.

The commission annually posts on its Web site a list of teachers who are disciplined. In the years 2001-2005, a total of 360 teachers were disciplined. Besides sex abuse, offenses ranged from concealing arrests on applications for jobs or licenses, theft and abusing students in ways other than sexual. Drug and alcohol abuse were common.

The commission keeps more detailed records of the discipline on paper, in docket entries in three-ring binders at its Salem office.

Its investigative files, however, are sealed by law.

Finch said the actions of the state agency follow those of the local police agencies and the schools themselves, which are required to report instances of misconduct.

"We're not the first line of defense," he said.

Parents and students also are eager to report teacher misconduct, so much so that they often complain about such things as a teacher's failure to complete a year's coursework, propensity to assign lots of homework, or other matters that wouldn't threaten a license.

the time the commission revokes a license, a teacher may well have been fired, have resigned or have been imprisoned, Finch said.

And the teacher is likely to have agreed to the state's punishment, he said. Although teachers can appeal the commission's actions in the legal system, the commission's records show few do so.

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