Students in Steilacoom walk out of class demanding a teacher accused of sexual misconduct to be fired

Dozens of students at Steilacoom High School walked out of class Wednesday, demanding a teacher accused of sexual misconduct to be fired.

A lawsuit against the teacher and the Steilacoom Historical School District was filed in Pierce County Superior Court over the summer.

Parents and community members joined students as they called for the district to fire a teacher who has been sued for accusations of sexual misconduct during the 2018-2019 school year.

"He needs to be fired and he needs to be charged. He needs to be charged so he can’t go from this school district to another school district and do this to some other children," said parent Angel Bonner.

District leaders placed the teacher on administrative leave, but did not specify when that leave started. Officials said the math teacher is not allowed to go to campus while there is an active lawsuit.

The student has since graduated, but filed the lawsuit in July against both the teacher and the district. Court documents said in 2018, during class at her desk, the teacher knelt down close to the student and rubbed her shoulder with his left hand. The documents further states the teacher, "slid his right hand up under her skirt," then, "squeezed the child’s unclothed inner thigh" and said, "good job" while commenting on her work.

The former student’s attorney said she reported the incident and other encounters to the district. Administrators said they reported the allegations to law enforcement.

Susanne Beauchaine is the district’s executive director for human resources and safety. During Wednesday’s student walkout, she said the district’s focus at the rally was listening to students, working together to "ensure a safe learning environment for everyone."

"We do not condone that kind of conduct on our campus. We are here to listen to our students and to take actions together with them so that they do feel safe," said Beauchaine.

The district’s attorneys said an internal investigation of the allegations was conducted in 2018 and 2019. Court documents from the attorneys said the internal investigation found the teacher, "placed his hand or hands on students’ backs or shoulders in a non sexual fashion." The documents also stated the district denies he "engaged in any sexualized touching" of his former student.

"That is an ultimate concern for us if our students do not feel safe on campus. And we’ll do everything we can to change that," said Beauchaine.

Mark O’Donnell is the teacher’s attorney. O’Donnell said no charges were filed against his client when the Steilacoom Police Department first investigated the former student’s allegations. In a written statement, O’Donnell said although his client, "is disappointed that these allegations have again been made he will continue to cooperate with any investigations and we will defend him from these allegations."

O’Donnell said the teacher has worked in the district for nearly 25 years. Litigation in this case is pending.

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