March 5, 1998 in Nation/World

Scc Bars Instructor Over His Sexual Past State Had Suspended His License For Seducing High School Student

Grayden Jones Staff writer
 
Tags:ethics

A Spokane Community College mathematics teacher has been barred from campus after administrators learned he once was disciplined for seducing a high school student.

Curtis John Brennan was reassigned from his teaching job and told to work off campus after the student he had had a relationship with - now enrolled at SCC - spotted him in a hallway on the first day of winter quarter.

“I was hoping to get beyond when he was in my life,” said Kathleen Cooper-Nowlan, who was a teenager when the relationship began in Wilbur, Wash. “I just want to make sure he leaves me alone.”

Brennan’s 15-year career as a public schoolteacher ended in 1991 when the state suspended his teaching certificate. He said he has a right to teach at the college because he never was convicted of a crime.

“I have never, ever had anything to do in any improper way with any of my students at any time,” Brennan said in a telephone interview from his Spokane home.

“I always treated my students in a proper manner and expected the same from them,” he said. “I feel this is a violation of my right to privacy and borders on a witch hunt for the sole purpose to try to defame and discredit me.”

Brennan acknowledges a relationship with Cooper-Nowlan but says she was 16 years old and no longer his student.

Cooper-Nowlan has little sympathy for the 46-year-old Brennan, who was her eighth-grade teacher in Wilbur, 70 miles west of Spokane.

Cooper-Nowlan said Brennan continued to contact her for many years after the relationship ended. She said he kept love letters she wrote as a teenager behind the seat of his pickup as late as 1996.

Brennan said the relationship lasted only a short time.

Cooper-Nowlan said she has had years of counseling and has divorced twice since her relationship with Brennan. At 26, she was just beginning community college when she saw Brennan. She alerted college officials and provided a statement about their past relationship.

She said she was pleased that SCC has removed Brennan from campus.

Brennan was hired in February 1997 by the Community Colleges of Spokane, which includes SCC and the Institute for Extended Learning.

His first assignment was teaching adult basic education to inmates at Airway Heights Corrections Center. SCC offered Brennan a part-time position last fall teaching vocational-technical students on the main campus at Greene Street and Mission.

Tony Embrey, vice president of instruction, said it is unlikely that there were minors or high school Running Start students in Brennan’s applied mathematics classes.

After an investigation by the CCS district office, officials in January reassigned Brennan to develop curriculum at home. He is paid $7,200 per quarter.

As a part-time instructor, Brennan’s employment contract expires March 20. Embrey said he does not know whether Brennan will be rehired for the spring quarter.

“We want people of good character,” said Geoffrey Eng, district director of affirmative action and administrative services. “We want to have a safe, open environment for all. We certainly can’t ignore information like this.”

John Stellwagen, vice president of student and administrative services for the IEL, said that before candidates are hired, officials verify any college degrees and most-recent employment.

Because the colleges do not require a state certificate, officials do not check whether former public schoolteachers have ever lost their license.

“There are literally hundreds of people hired every quarter in this district,” Stellwagen said, “and our adjunct faculty change often.”

Brennan seemed a particularly strong candidate because he was cleared by the state Department of Corrections to teach at the Airway Heights prison, Stellwagen said.

His previous employer was the state Department of Social and Health Services in Ephrata, where he worked as a juvenile rehabilitation counselor. Brennan also had worked for the Pasco School District and Big Bend Community College.

But state Superintendent of Public Instruction records showed that the state suspended Brennan’s teaching certificate in 1991 for lack of “good moral character” and “acts of immorality.” The action stemmed from an investigation of his relationship with Cooper-Nowlan, said Rick Wilson, SPI counsel for administrative law in Olympia.

In 1996, Brennan asked the state to reactivate his teaching certificate, documents showed. To win back the certificate, Brennan submitted to psychological counseling and evaluation by SPI-approved experts.

SPI turned down Brennan’s request on Feb. 4 of this year. One psychologist who treated Brennan wrote that Brennan “remained in denial, not that he had sexual contact with his nearly 16-year-old student/ victim, but about his sexual contact being inappropriate and unethical.”

In Washington, intercourse between an adult and anyone under 16 is child rape and punishable by a prison sentence. Cooper-Nowlan says she was 14 or 15 when the sexual relationship began, but has no proof.

The state attorney general’s office investigated the case, but Brennan was never charged with a crime.

Former Wilbur superintendent Nancy McKay said she first reported the relationship to the state after letters between Brennan and Cooper-Nowlan were brought to her office.

Brennan said he and his wife had welcomed Cooper-Nowlan into their home as a friend and baby sitter of their four children before the adulterous affair began in 1988.

“I wish it had never happened,” he said.

, DataTimes


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