A former Redmond High School math teacher received two years of probation from the state this summer and was barred from teaching again in Redmond after writing a personal letter to a graduating senior in June 2017.
Although the letter Tyler Barrie sent the female student — who was not named for privacy reasons — was not explicitly sexual or romantic, Redmond School District officials and the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission agreed the note crossed student-teacher boundaries, according to documents obtained by The Bulletin. In his June 2017 letter of reprimand to Barrie, then-Redmond High School Principal Paul Nolan said the letter violated several state statutes.
“While writing a personal letter or note to a student is generally inappropriate, your letter specifically contains several highly concerning statements consistent with classic grooming behavior between teacher and student,” Nolan wrote.
In the handwritten three-page letter Barrie gave to the student, he included his personal cellphone number and said his relationship with the student had “always been a little complicated.”
According to notes from a June 14, 2017, meeting between Barrie and several district officials, Barrie explained that the relationship was “complicated” because the student had opened up to him about her personal life, including the fact that she was cutting herself. Barrie told district staff in 2017 he didn’t feel the need to report her self-harming because she was already in therapy, the notes stated.
Barrie told district staff he had a close, but never sexual or romantic, relationship with the student. She was initially in his algebra class and later a teacher’s assistant in his class.
Barrie said the student told him about her struggles with anxiety, and he wrote the letter, complete with phone number and email address, so she could reach out to him if she wanted to.
In the letter, Barrie told the student, “I don’t know if you really realize how much I care about you and how much you mean to me; I would do anything to help you and support you.” Barrie also offered many words of encouragement to the student in the letter, asked her to stay healthy and safe and mentioned how the student “would always smile and wave” when she came across Barrie in the halls or in the library.
“There has always been something about you that you are worth standing up for and supporting,” Barrie wrote. “I am so glad I put in the time to get to know you.”
In the 2017 interviews with the school district, Barrie said although his relationship with the student may have wandered into “a little bit of a grey area” when it came to professional boundaries, “no lines were crossed.”
“We were close and I see how it could be interpreted going the wrong way,” Barrie told district officials in 2017. “I don’t know what I can say to alleviate those concerns but … the intentions were good. There was no intent for it go anywhere else.”
According to a June 2017 complaint summary from Redmond High School obtained by The Bulletin, the student told district officials she found Barrie’s letter to be “a little weird,” but she didn’t think he crossed any boundaries. The student’s mother told district officials she thought the letter was “awesome” and appropriate, and that Barrie “was probably smitten, but didn’t cross the line with what he wrote,” according to the complaint summary.
The student also told district officials that one day, after she talked about her insecurities with Barrie, Barrie stroked her hair and told her, “See, you are pretty,” according to the complaint summary. The student said besides that moment, Barrie had never touched her or made any comments about her looks or body.
When asked by district officials about that situation, Barrie said he never told the student she was pretty, and he didn’t remember stroking her hair.
Barrie admitted to district officials in 2017 that he should have tried to gently change the topic when the student started talking about her personal life, instead of talking about those topics with her.
In 2017, a letter signed by Nolan stated that after an investigation, the school determined Barrie’s actions constituted “gross neglect of duty” and violated Oregon teaching law, because he had a “professionally inappropriate relationship in a student’s personal life” and gave an overly personal note to a student, among other concerns. This summer, the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission agreed, placing him on a two-year probation.
District officials were also upset Barrie didn’t report the student was cutting herself, according to the complaint summary. Because of his actions, Nolan wrote that Barrie could not be rehired for any other Redmond School District teaching position. He was placed on administrative leave starting June 14, 2017, through the remainder of his contract with the school district. It is unclear when that contract ended.
Trent Danowski, the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission’s deputy director, said the two-year gap between Redmond School District’s initial 2017 investigation and the state’s ruling this year was because the case was not prioritized as highly as cases involving active teachers that allegedly violated student safety. Barrie is no longer working as a teacher, Danowski said.
The case was posted publicly in August, after Barrie ended his due process proceedings and the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission wrote and approved a final order, Danowski said.
Barrie did not respond when asked for comment. A Redmond School District representative said district officials couldn’t discuss the investigation into Barrie.
— Reporter: 541-617-7854, email@example.com