Timberline High School teacher Laura Boulton was accused of “inappropriate” behavior toward students and of soliciting complaints against her colleagues when she was placed on paid leave by the Boise School District.
In the letters the school district wrote to Boulton placing her on leave, officials accused her of undermining other educators and emotionally abusing students.
Boulton has denied all the claims and said her suspension is an act of retaliation for actions that were made to support students.
Since Boulton was suspended, parents and teachers have demanded answers. The Boise School District has declined to explain the action, citing an exemption in Idaho’s Public Records Act that allows agencies to withhold personnel information.
The suspension letters, obtained by the Idaho Statesman through a parent, provides the first glimpse into the reasons the school district cited for her paid leave.
“It has come to our attention that you may have conducted yourself in an inappropriate manner and may be in violation of the Idaho Code of Ethics for Idaho Professional Educators, Board Policy of the Boise School District and the Certified Employee Handbook,” the letter stated.
Boise School District spokesperson Dan Hollar confirmed that Boulton received a letter on Sept. 7 placing her on paid administrative leave. That suspension letter and two follow-up letters were placed in Boulton’s personnel file. At the request of Boulton, the school agreed to provide the letter to parents and students who requested it. Timberline parent Stephanie Taylor provided that letter to the Statesman.
The letters said six colleagues filed complaints against Boulton. At least four of them alleged “bullying, hazing, harassment, and what appears to be retaliation,” according to the school. The most recent complaints included allegations of “repeated attempts to undermine the academic environment with colleagues,” inappropriate relationships with students, emotional abuse of students and false accusations against staff.
The school district also included one colleague’s allegation of “grooming behaviors” in the letter. Hollar clarified that the school district has a broad definition of the term grooming that is “not strictly defined as sexual in nature.” Boulton is not being investigated for “inappropriate sexual relationships with students,” Hollar said.
These staff members’ allegations are under investigation, according to Hollar.
Boulton denied all claims against her outlined in the letters.
“I wholeheartedly, with all the love I have in my soul for my superiors, my students, and community refute ALL charges against me,” Boulton wrote in a message to the Statesman.
Boise trustees receive letters in support of Boulton
Boulton said she believes her suspension – just 22 days into the new school year – is tied to five letters sent to members of the school board from students who graduated in the spring. These letters, according to Boulton, gave the school the excuse they had been looking for to suspend her.
Boulton said she “believes that her district’s intentions are to discredit her and make the community confused so that everyone pays less attention to the district’s many illegal activities.”
“I am confident in my community’s ability to see my children’s need and focus on the truth at hand: Boise School District’s schools are not safe for its children because powerful people are making bad choices,” Boulton told the Statesman.
The first letter was sent in late June and the last was sent on the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 4. School officials appeared during the last class period that Thursday to inform her of her suspension and escort her to her car.
Four of these letters to the school board, which were sent to the Statesman by Taylor, referenced two other Timberline teachers the students compared unfavorably to Boulton. Three writers to whom the Statesman spoke gave permission to publish parts of their letters.
Annie Kyambala, 18, said Boulton told her and her family that she had gotten in trouble for allegedly saying negative things about other teachers. Kyambala said she never heard Boulton do that.
The former student said she believed one teacher was “just jealous, because Mrs. Boulton is a way better teacher,” and said she was “really upset” that the “lies” told by two other teachers “have hurt Mrs. Boulton and I am here to help stand up for her.”
“The fact that her bosses at Timberline did not even try to pretend to hear about what she had to say and just took action based on a one-sided story is unbelievable,” Kyambala wrote.
Anistyn Moore, 18, sent the first letter, in June. She said Boulton told her about issues she was having with the school. Moore told the Statesman she was upset with Timberline for a variety of reasons, including the suspension of another favorite teacher of hers the year before. She said she hoped her letter would encourage the school to “be more empathetic” toward Boulton.
In her letter, Moore wrote about how supportive Boulton was during her time at Timberline, with Boulton once attending an administrative meeting to discuss Moore’s needs as a student with disabilities.
“Although Boulton was not my teacher, she was my support, my academic help, and a mom to me,” Moore wrote. “Only one of my parents was able to attend, so I asked Boulton to join me also. At the meeting, she was extremely helpful and supportive of what I had to say.”
Dylan Simmons wrote in a letter that the school objects to the “loving” way in which Boulton treats students.
“BSD seems to think ‘loving’ your students is inappropriate which might just be one of the dumbest claims the scandalous and ignorant (Timberline Principal) Diana Molino has made,” Simmons told school board members. “Boulton’s love for students comes from an eastern culture that she has adopted into her life. It is seen as a normal thing for educators where she’s from to embrace their students as their own and take care and nurture them. There is zero sexual love, zero abusive love, zero inappropriate love, and absolutely zero things wrong with what she’s done.”
School district officials told the Statesman that “Ms. Boulton’s leave was not related to any letters to the Board of Trustees.”
Boulton said she saw these letters before they were sent. She said she edited them for some grammatical reasons but didn’t change the substance of them.
Kyambala told the Statesman she had not known how to add her signature to her document, so Boulton added it for her. Moore said she came up with the idea to write letters because she wanted to make sure Boulton did not lose her teaching job. Moore said Boulton was one of the only Timberline staff members who was supportive toward her during difficult moments in her life.
“She needs her career,” Moore said. “She’s literally meant to be a teacher.”