A former Crook County School District music teacher was reprimanded and is under a state-issued probation after years of student, parent and school administrator complaints about harsh, unfiltered comments and actions toward students.
Kenneth Chaney, who taught band at Crook County’s middle and high schools, received a lengthy series of verbal and written warnings, as well as a few short suspensions, from Crook County administrators from 2014 through 2018. These were mostly for allegedly calling students names and insulting them, according to documents obtained by The Bulletin.
Seemingly, the final straw for Chaney was an incident on Sept. 24, 2018, when multiple middle school students told administrators that Chaney slammed the lid of a trumpet case on his desk.
This scared kids in the class, according to state documents.
“Students were in fear, in tears, and were singled out for discipline, and many requested to be removed from his class,” wrote Lincoln Hathaway, investigator with the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, on his investigation report of Chaney.
Chaney resigned soon after this incident, on Oct. 3, 2018. Before that, he was told by then-Crook County School District Superintendent Duane Yecha that March that his contract with the school district, which expired in June 2019, wouldn’t be renewed.
Chaney defended the trumpet case incident in an interview with Hathaway, saying that he was “sleep deprived” when he slammed the case and it pinched his hand, according to state documents.
“I understand how it must have looked to the students, but it wasn’t about them,” he told Hathaway.
State documents detail many other instances in which parents and students complained about comments Chaney allegedly made to students.
The earliest documented incident came from October 2014, where Chaney received a verbal warning after a student alleged that Chaney called her the “c-word.” Chaney strongly refuted that he called the student that word, telling Hathaway that was a word he never used.
The 2014 verbal warning also said Chaney told another student, “I’m going to break your arm.” He admitted to making that comment, but said the statement was meant as a joke while trying to put a student’s arm in the right position for playing their instrument.
On April 20, 2017, Chaney received a one-day suspension without pay for calling middle school students “brain dead” and telling a student, “If you don’t know, you should go back to second grade.”
Chaney told Hathaway that he didn’t remember using terms like “brain dead,” but if he did, it was a joke, and never directed at individual students.
One report stated that Chaney called a student of color an “ugly monkey.” Chaney “adamantly” denied this, according to Hathaway’s report. The former teacher said he told the student to not play the cymbals like “a (toy) wind-up monkey.”
Chaney explained to Hathaway that when he started teaching in Crook County in 2006, he enjoyed the job. But a few years later, district and school administrators changed, and a fellow music teacher who was a close friend of his left. The stress from this period resulted in a “decrease in enjoyment of music instruction,” Hathaway wrote.
Chaney told Hathaway that during the time frame of the complaints, he had been sick and said that “In hindsight … I was not in a good place to be teaching.”
“Suddenly I went from the funny, popular teacher ... and I became the jerk, because my humor and sarcasm started to come across as mean,” Chaney told Hathaway, according to the report. “I feel very bad about that.”
On Sept. 20, the state Teacher Standards and Practices Commission issued Chaney a public reprimand and placed him on two years of probation due to breaking multiple state teaching statutes.
Chaney could not be reached for comment.
— Reporter: 541-617-7854, email@example.com
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected. The original version misstated the effect of probation. The Bulletin regrets the error.