October 13, 2011 in Washington Voices

Touch allegations unconfirmed against U-Hi teacher

By The Spokesman-Review

Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction recently dismissed charges against University High School teacher Michael Cronin after conducting an investigation into allegations that he touched a female student and a female staff member while drunk at school in 2009.

The Central Valley School District issued a letter of reprimand as the result of its own investigation into the same allegations.

The OSPI’s decision was reached in part because the agency was unable to interview a male student who witnessed the incident between Cronin and the female student, according to a “reasons for dismissal” document released by OSPI in response to a public records request. The witness told Central Valley School District administrators that it appeared Cronin “kind of felt her up.”

The female student told OSPI investigators, “He put his right hand on my stomach, rubbed up to my bra line and down to my pants.” She described Cronin as acting “weird and drunk.” “I could tell by the way he was slurring his words,” she said. “I could smell it on him and he was mumbling.”

The student told investigators that the male witness was away at boot camp.

The OSPI found that there was no “clear and convincing evidence” that Cronin violated the Code of Professional Conduct, the document said.

It noted that “After the incident, the school district assigned (Cronin) to the DECA club adviser position, knowing that the student in question was a part of the DECA club.”

Central Valley Superintendent Ben Small said Cronin was assigned to be U-Hi’s career and technical education teacher, and that teacher is always the DECA club adviser. “You can’t separate the two assignments,” Small said. “You can’t do one without the other.”

In Cronin’s interview with OSPI investigators he was asked why several students had reported that he appeared to be drunk and smelled of alcohol. He replied that the smell could have been caused by hand sanitizer he keeps in his room or that it might have been a student in the room who smelled of alcohol. “I may have taken NyQuil the night before,” he said.

Cronin also told investigators that he has been prescribed Ambien for insomnia and that may be why people thought he was drunk.

He denied ever touching the female student and said she was “not completely trustworthy,” had discipline issues and a “reputation for untruthfulness.”

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