Teacher resigns after investigation
- Published: April 14, 2016
Following an internal school district investigation into charges of inappropriate and sexually harassing behavior, longtime Yellow Springs teacher Shawn Jackson resigned his position recently.
The resignation became final at the March 10 school board meeting. The item was included in a board consent agenda, with no discussion by board members.
District Superintendent Mario Basora declined to comment on the situation this week. In a Feb. 25 letter from Basora to Jackson regarding the investigation results, Basora stated that an independent investigator found that Jackson, who in recent years taught social studies at Yellow Springs High School, violated the school district policy on anti-harassment, including sexual harassment, in actions toward a student. Furthermore, the letter states the investigator, after speaking with 30 student and staff witnesses, concluded that Jackson “created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working and/or learning environment which interfered with one’s ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program or activity” as stated in the board policy.
On Tuesday, Jackson submitted a written statement through his attorney, Susan Jansen of Dayton.
“It was with great reluctance that I resigned my teaching position after having been a teacher in the District for 25 years,” he wrote. “I adamantly maintain that I did nothing inappropriate with any students.”
The school district investigation and a police investigation both followed charges of sexual imposition made by two female students at the high school in November. According to a police report on the incidents, Jackson had acted inappropriately on two occasions with one student, first giving a her an unsolicited shoulder and back rub during class, and also touching her inappropriately. She had discussed the first incident with an older family member several months earlier but dropped it, until on a second occasion she felt Jackson addressed her in a suggestive manner. A second student felt uncomfortable with what felt like inappropriate looks and staring, according to the report. The girls said they believed other female students had had similar problems with Jackson.
Following the girls’ accusations in November, Jackson was put on paid administrative leave while the police and school district investigations took place. Jackson was also instructed to not have any contact with students or come onto school property.
In December, Xenia City Prosecutor Ron Lewis stated that following the police investigation, the criminal charges against Jackson had been dropped. Last week Lewis stated that he had not personally reviewed the Yellow Springs police investigation due to a potential conflict of interest, but a colleague had done so, and had found a lack of evidence.
However, while the criminal charges against Jackson were dropped, the school district conducted its own investigation into possible violation of board policies, including, along with the anti-harassment policy, policies on Educational Goals, Student Supervision and Welfare and School Sponsored Publications and Productions. The district used an independent investigator hired by the Columbus law firm Bricker and Eckler, and the process took almost two months, Basora said this week, with the finding that Jackson violated the anti-harrassment policy.
The outcomes of the criminal investigation and school district investigation were different because “there are different burdens of proof” regarding violations of the law and of school board policies, Basora said.
In his written statement, Jackson questioned the school district’s actions.
“Even though law enforcement officials had conducted a thorough investigation and found no evidence of inappropriate behavior, the school administration seemed determined to find something they could cite as grounds for terminating my employment,” he wrote. “I became convinced after months and months of waiting to go back to work that the administration was engaged in a proverbial witch hunt.”
Jackson, who has been a member of the school board of the Southeastern School District in South Charleston, where he lives, taught at the Yellow Springs schools for 25 years, most recently at the high school and previously at McKinney Middle School. He was profiled by the News in recent years for the mock elections he held with students during presidential campaign years. He was active in the Yellow Springs Education Association, which is the teachers’ union, and had served as president of the union.
“Teaching students brought me great joy and fulfillment,” Jackson wrote. “I have nothing but great admiration for the students I taught and my fellow teachers.”
In the March 10 separation agreement with the board, Jackson agreed to resign effective June 30, 2018. For the remaining part of this school year, Jackson is permitted to use paid sick leave, with the following two years an unpaid leave of absence. During next school year, Jackson will remain on the school board’s family insurance plan, contributing the usual employee’s 15 percent of the premium and in the following year he will pay the total amount of the premium. The board will continue to pay Jackson’s retirement until his resignation is final, and Jackson agreed that there would be no severance pay from the board.
According to Basora this week, substitute teacher Anna Haller, who took over Jackson’s class in November, is continuing to teach the class until the end of this year. The district is advertising for a new social studies teacher beginning next fall.