A public document recently posted online by the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction reveals that a high-profile Bainbridge Island public school teacher quietly resigned at the start of the current school year after the district’s superintendent filed a formal complaint with the state that he had used a work computer to view pornography.
According to an April 30, 2012 agreed order of suspension signed by the teacher, his attorney and an OSPI official, Matthew Pedersen, of Sakai Intermediate School, resigned effective last August 31 after he was found to have “used Bainbridge Island School District computer resources to access and attempt to access sexually explicit materials” during the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years. Pedersen, now 42, of Suquamish, was placed on administrative leave in mid-January 2011 and signed a settlement in late February 2011 agreeing to resign on August 31.
According to a Kitsap Sun teacher salary database he nonetheless was paid a total of $71,977 in salary and benefits for the 2010-11 school year, although that was somewhat less than in several preceding years.
State law requires that certificated school personnel may have an administrative hearing before being discharged. Pedersen was apparently able to negotiate a settlement in which he forfeited his right to a hearing in return for pay and benefits which continued for at least some portion of the time between his being placed on leave and his resignation becoming effective.
A “very well-regarded” teacher
Pedersen made an extra effort to serve the community and to champion classroom innovation. For three years running he led students in supporting a Thanksgiving community food drive. He was also featured in a video by the Bainbridge Schools Foundation on new ways of teaching math to middle-schoolers. Bainbridge Island School District Superintendent Faith Chapel said Pedersen was “a very well-regarded teacher who had positive working relationships with his colleagues,” parents and students.
District’s monitoring system caught attempts to access porn sites
However, Chapel said, district technology staff became aware through a regularly-deployed monitoring system that he was sometimes using his work laptop on school property to access or try to access pornographic Internet sites. According to the OSPI agreed order, Pedersen violated Bainbridge school district policy that all use of the school’s IT network including the Internet “must be in support of education and research and consistent with the mission of the district” and that “use of the system to access, store, or distribute obscene or pornographic material is prohibited.” No criminal proceedings resulted from the investigations by the school district or the state into Pedersen’s questioned activities, she said.
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Under state law RCW 28A.410.090(1)(a) OSPI in the agreed order suspends Pedersen’s teaching certificate for four months from April 30, 2012, and states that if he wants it reinstated he’ll have to reapply and undergo a criminal background check.
Sakai PTO Co-President Sarah Barnes said she knew that Pedersen had resigned but not “any of the reasons behind it.” Asked whether the school district should have promptly informed the public a teacher was resigning due to using school computers in connection with sexually explicit online materials, she declined comment.
First it was too early to publicly reveal, then too late
Chapel said the district could not reveal anything publicly until OSPI’s formal suspension of Pedersen’s license this past April 30, and then chose not to do so because of the time that has passed.
Pedersen is now working in a non-education, private-sector job in Kitsap County. Reached briefly by phone at his workplace, Pedersen said he would return a reporter’s call later – but so far has not.
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