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Riverside teacher fighting dismissal over sex with ex-aide

A Riverside High School teacher is fighting for his job after being dismissed for having sex on school grounds with a former student.

Allen Martin thinks the school district is being too harsh. The district, however, contends the behavior raises too many concerns.

School was not in session the day he and the 25-year-old woman, a former teacher’s aide in his class, had their encounter in Martin’s classroom, according to court documents. The former head football coach says he was forthcoming to district officials about the tryst.

“We are in arbitration because Mr. Martin made a mistake in his personal life on his personal time and he thinks the district overreacted” by dismissing him, said Martin’s attorney, Kevan Montonya. “By all accounts he was an outstanding teacher who has never harmed or endangered a student.”

Martin, who teaches Advanced Placement history and biology, has worked 25 years in the school district. District officials told him in February they planned to terminate his contract; under that contract, he has the right to appeal.

An arbitration hearing on the appeal started Wednesday. A decision could take 30 days or more.

The Spokesman-Review sought records involving Martin’s dismissal in April, but the court is considering a request by the teacher’s attorney to block their release. Subsequent court filings have revealed the reason for Martin’s termination, though.

Martin came under investigation last September after an anonymous caller told district officials that Martin had had sexual relationships with former female students, according to court documents.

The district launched an investigation a few days later into whether his former female student aides had been groomed for sexual relationships with the teacher.

Martin was cleared of those allegations. During the course of the investigation, however, he admitted to having sex with the now-adult former student on school grounds.

The district states the latter was the reason for his dismissal.

“The 25-year-old consenting adult with whom he engaged in the behavior in his classroom was his former high school teacher’s aide,” the school district’s attorney wrote in a court document. “That does not imply he was grooming students, but it does point out the legitimate concern that parents and community members will certainly have as to that question … these are substantial/admitted allegations of legitimate public concern.”

Martin’s attorney argues: “The conduct for which the district is attempting to discharge Mr. Martin was not a crime, and nobody has alleged it was a crime.”

Martin did not return a message seeking comment.

While there’s no law that specifically addresses a teacher having sex on school property, under the Washington Administrative Code it can be considered a violation of the Code of Professional Conduct, state officials said.

The state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which is investigating Martin’s case, has suspended at least four teachers’ certificates during the last decade because the individuals engaged in sexual activity on school grounds, according to state records. The longest suspension was 36 months.

“All investigations come to us from the districts. We are reactive, not proactive in these cases,” said Nathan Olson, OSPI’s spokesman. The districts conduct the initial investigation and if they “think there’s a concern about that teacher’s certificate, they send it to us,” he said.

He added, “We can reject further investigation if there is not enough evidence.”

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