Evers Sides With Arbitrator Over Teacher Who Alleged Harassment

A Middleton School District Summary Report of Findings concluded that teacher Andrew Harris harassed and retaliated against a teacher who reported him for viewing pornographic images on a school computer. But a State Department of Instruction spokesman told Media Trackers that the woman’s claims could “not be substantiated when put under review.” The review Thomas McCarthy refers to is an arbitrator’s report.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers previously was criticized for failing to pull Harris’ teaching license after the arbitrator ordered him returned to his job after the district had fired him. Evers, a Democratic candidate for governor,  has argued that the law as it was written at the time didn’t allow him to do so because children were not harmed by Harris viewing and sharing the images. The full district report on Harris, reviewed by Media Trackers, shows that the allegations also included harassment and retaliation by Harris, after a teacher reported his behavior to administration.

The teacher went to the school principal believing her complaint would remain confidential. Instead, the principal went to Harris. Harris did apologize but the teacher considered the apology threatening. The teacher then went to the superintendent. The report then details several items that appear to constitute harassment:

The teacher who accused Harris of sexual harassment “felt like a rape victim with the frat buddies that are all ‘in on it.’ She felt like she couldn’t take it to anyone, even in the union, because they all know Harris and she felt so alone.” (Pg 2)

Harris participated in email correspondence that “suggests retaliation” against teacher who reported him, including photoshopping her face onto“one of those nude fatty sites.” (Pg 7)

 The same teacher repeatedly raised the issue of children potentially seeing the images, and references an unwelcome comment that Harris had made that very day. (Pg 3)

Harris made comments about fellow teachers, including the “boob” of another teacher. (Pg 3)

Harris was “angry” when he found out about the sexual harassment portion of the investigation. (Pg 4)

But the arbitrator’s report paints a picture of a team of teachers who engaged in extremely lewd conversations and graphic depictions of their personal sex lives. The arbitrator also said evidence indicated that the reporting teachers previous behavior suggests she wouldn’t have been offended by the images Harris shared.

DPI spokesman McCarthy says the claims couldn’t be substantiated under review and says the teacher actually retracted one portion of her statement: “Specifically, the section where she denies being part of crude talk to the district during their investigation and later admits she did those things during the arbitrator’s review.”

That was the only retraction by the teacher found by Media Trackers and the Middleton School District’s report was never modified. Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesman Alec Zimmerman disagrees with McCarthy’s take:

“With each new development in this story Tony Evers comes up with yet another excuse to justify his failure to remove a teacher accused of not only spreading pornography and making predatory comments about children, but as we now know also sexually harassing and retaliating against a fellow teacher,” Zimmerman said. “These latest revelations are damning; Tony Evers’ track record of reckless inaction put children and teachers at risk all for the sake of political expediency as he bowed to union pressure. Evers simply cannot be trusted to protect Wisconsin families.”