A former Bend-La Pine Schools music instructor who lost his teaching license in 2013 after using racist nicknames and making derogatory comments toward his students has been cleared to teach again in Oregon. It seems unlikely, however, that Bend-La Pine will rehire him, even though state education officials renewed his license in November.
Jeffrey Simmons taught music at Summit High and Cascade Middle schools but resigned during a school district investigation in February 2012. District and state education officials ultimately concluded that in the 2011-12 school year he called a student of Asian descent “Chopsticks,” “Potsticker,” “Cheap Chinese Labor” and “Twinkie,” because “she was yellow on the outside and white on the inside,” according to a report filed with the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission. Simmons also called an Indian student a “towel head” and a “terrorist” and asked him if he was “going home to eat some curry,” the report said. Other students received demeaning comments about their weight and sexual orientation from Simmons.
These incidents were witnessed by multiple students and at least one adult, the state report said, and both the involved students and witnesses “were all negatively affected by his actions, claiming they were hurt, intimidated, and afraid.” It is unclear whether these students were at Cascade or Summit.
Bend-La Pine also provided the state agency with documents showing that Simmons had been subjected to counseling and discipline since the 2000-01 school year for various incidents, including verbal abuse, misuse of sick leave, failing to submit grades on time, mishandling school finances and using inappropriate language in class.
In June 2013, the teacher practices commission revoked Simmons’ right to renew his teacher’s license based on those actions.
But on Nov. 5, Simmons was issued a new license that only allows him to be a substitute teacher. The commission had voted three days earlier to allow Simmons to apply for an education license but imposed a four-year probation as well. Trent Danowski, deputy director of the commission, said this means that if Simmons violates any more agency rules, he could be sanctioned again. Simmons’ probation requirements include completing two graduate-level courses on diversity and inclusion within one year.
According to Bend-La Pine Deputy Superintendent Jay Mathisen, Simmons began teaching in the district in 1999 and resigned in February 2012. For many of his years teaching, he split his time between Cascade and Summit, but he also previously taught at Mountain View High School.
Although Mathisen would not rule out the possibility of rehiring Simmons, he hinted that a reunion was unlikely.
“Without speaking to any specific candidate, it is safe to state that any candidate for a teaching position who has had their teaching license revoked for multiple years would face enormous challenges that the vast majority of the many exceptional teaching candidates who apply for positions in our schools would not have to overcome, when applying for any teaching position in our district,” he wrote in an email.
Bend-La Pine Schools spokeswoman Julianne Repman said the district didn’t know Simmons’ license was reinstated until Wednesday.
Danowski said the teacher practices commission doesn’t know where Simmons is currently teaching, although he would be able to apply for substitute positions anywhere in Oregon. He said only applying for a substitute teacher license was Simmons’ choice and not a part of the probation.
Simmons could not be reached forcomment.
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