by Matt Rosenberg September 4th, 2012
The director of the Monroe, Wash. School District’s high school-level alternative education program called Leaders In Learning, who was earning $109,260 in total salary and benefits, was forced to resign because he used his school computer to view sexually explicit images, including some of his wife. Over a period of six years, the inappropriate content got steamier, as complaints and warnings from fellow employees made uncomfortable, were ignored.
Though the resignation occurred in June 2011, this case was made public only last week through a final order of suspension of the state education certificate of Kenneth Brown, quietly posted online by the State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) at a page where hundreds of such disciplinary documents dating as far back as 1992 are linked – but only alphabetically by employee’s last name, not by date or school district.
The OSPI final order dated August 28, 2012 suspending Brown’s teaching certificate for nine months, states that from 2005 into the 2010-2011 school year he used school computer resources to visit online dating sites, some including “images of partially clad women.” He was observed doing so by other staff and warned to stop. In the fall of 2008 he signed a district form that he’d received the employee handbook which included a policy barring use of school computers for personal reasons and for inappropriate purposes.
But according to the final order, the behavior escalated in the 2010-2011 school year, when he moved from using his school computer to view relatively tame dating site visuals to viewing images “depicting sexually explicit conduct” including some of his wife, as well as other pictures of himself and his wife nude. Brown was placed on administrative leave March 30, 2011 after a staff complaint to the administration and in a May, 2011 meeting Brown admitted to the activities. In June, 2011 he signed a settlement agreement with the Monroe School District and resigned.
According to a search of a Tacoma News Tribune database developed from OSPI data, Brown as of Fall, 2010 was earning $86,639 in total annual salary from the district, plus $10,292 in insurance benefits and $12,329 in other benefits, for a total of $109,260.
The program Brown directed from the 2006-07 school year until his forced resignation is described on a district web page as emphasizing individually-tailored programs of study for students.
Leaders in Learning is a full-service alternative high school program that meets individual student needs. Students accepted in this program are motivated individuals who are willing to take an active role in their own learning. Students, parents and Leaders in Learning staff work together to develop an individualized learning plan including activities designed to prepare students for life after they graduate from public school.
Brown can apply for reinstatement of his teaching certificate in nine months if he then submits a new application including a “character and fitness supplement” plus fingerprints for passing a felony crime check by the FBI and State Patrol.
His ethics case is far from isolated. Within Washington State alone, Public Data Ferret has reported 13 times to date on various types of transgressions in public K-12 schools or public universities, in its Education+Ethics archive. These have included other cases of computers being used to view sexual content, in school districts serving Kennewick, and Bainbridge Island, and another involving a Bellevue school teacher having a sexual relationship with a student.