SD2 trustees forward teacher inquiry to state

2008-06-30T23:00:00Z SD2 trustees forward teacher inquiry to stateDIANE COCHRAN Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
June 30, 2008 11:00 pm  • 

Billings School District 2 will ask the Montana Board of Public Education to decide if a teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a student should lose his license.

Trustees voted unanimously at a special meeting Monday night to forward an investigation into Senior High teacher Stacey Rambold to the state board.

The internal investigation, conducted by a retired school administrator, found that it is "more likely than not" that Rambold had a monthslong sexual relationship with a freshman girl during the 2007-2008 school year.

The "more likely than not" standard is used in cases of alleged misconduct to determine whether a teacher should be disciplined.

Separate criminal investigation

It is a lower standard than would be required in a criminal case. A separate criminal investigation into Rambold by the Billings Police Department is ongoing.

The statute of limitations in Montana for statutory rape ends 10 years after an alleged victim turns 18.

Rambold, a business and technology teacher, has been on paid leave since April, when allegations surfaced that he engaged in oral sex with the student on multiple occasions, including during the school day.

The girl was 14 when the sexual relationship allegedly began. Rambold, who refused to participate in the district's investigation, apparently was 48.

Trustees were careful to point out that their action Monday night did not address the merit of the allegations against him.

"We are not at this point making any findings or conclusions as to the guilt or innocence of this teacher," trustee Joel Guthals said. "That will be reserved for future proceedings."

Instead, trustees voted to ask the Montana Board of Public Education to determine if there is enough evidence to suspend or revoke Rambold's license.

Immoral conduct

Under Montana law, a teacher can be decertified for a number of reasons, including for "immoral conduct related to the teaching profession." Sexual contact with a student is considered immoral conduct, Guthals said.

Trustees would be required to consider whether the accusations against Rambold are true only if they take steps to terminate his employment. Superintendent Jack Copps said last week that if the state board does not act quickly, he will ask trustees to fire Rambold.

"Even if the (state) board chooses not to take action to revoke the license, we do not forfeit our right to take action at this level to terminate his employment," Copps told board members Monday night.

The state revokes a handful only of teacher licenses each year, and a teacher who is under investigation can opt to surrender his or her license before it is revoked, according to the Office of Public Instruction.

About 26,000 people hold Montana teaching licenses.

Theoretically, a teacher who loses a Montana license would not be able to teach anywhere else in the nation.

Rambold was hired by SD2 in 2004. That same year, students complained that he touched female students inappropriately and entered the girls' locker room unannounced.

Officials reprimanded Rambold and barred him from participating in girls' athletics.

Another complaint was made against him after he apparently opened his hotel room door wearing only a towel during a student trip. Rambold was the adviser for the Business Professionals of America club. He was again reprimanded, and the district began requiring a female chaperone to accompany him on student trips.

The most recent complaint came to light after the girl told a church counselor that she had "an affair" with a teacher.

Some of the sexual contact allegedly took place when Rambold took the girl out of other classes, ostensibly to do work on BPA projects. It's not unusual for activities advisers to take students out of class to work on club projects.

He also gave her rides to and from school and took her to his house, according to the report.

After the allegations against him surfaced, other teachers reported having seen Rambold and the girl together at a local restaurant.

Contact Diane Cochran at dcochran@billingsgazette.com or 657-1287.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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