MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Orting students allege abuse by teacher who is still employed

Jun 20, 2019, 5:44 PM

Orting referee...

Orting School District buildings. (Orting School District)

(Orting School District)

Megan Hughes says a teacher in Orting began grooming her more than 10 years ago. Now her daughter is enrolled in the same district and the teacher remains employed.

The man would leave notes on Hughes’ desk to build trust. Their bond deepened after she started babysitting for him and they went to the same church.

“It started out with him tickling me or sitting really close to me to where his body was up against mine. And then, it would move to being tickled or eventually sitting on top of me or laying on top of me and there were times where he’d pin my arms down and tickle me where I couldn’t get up.”

Hughes stopped babysitting. She says she didn’t tell an adult because the teacher was well-respected in the community and she just wanted the touching to stop. And it did, until she got into school athletics.

He offered to give her extra lessons as the varsity coach and that’s when she says the inappropriate behavior started back up.

“He would tickle me right in the legs, right above my knee and then, over time he would move up. I remember when it got so bad that his hands were up so high his hands would be up against my genitals.”

Hughes says she was often left with bruises.

“I said, ‘No.’ I would grab his hands and push them away. And I remember squeezing my legs together so tight that when I got out of the car, my legs would be sore.”

After the season ended, Hughes tried to avoid the teacher at all costs, but she had one final interaction.

“I was in his classroom after school. I just happened to be the last person outside the portable and he walked past me and smacked me on my butt. This was at school in a portable. Granted, there was nobody in the room, but exposed enough where I feel like anyone could have opened the door. And, that was the last one-on-one interaction that I had with him.”

Hughes was vulnerable and she believes this teacher exploited that.

“I think I was so, I don’t want to say desperate, but I think I was just so ready for an older male role model that, in my brain, I was able to set all of those things that made me uncomfortable aside for so long.”

Hughes told her friends about the abuse. She thinks that’s why she eventually got a phone call from a school board member in 2010.

“There was a little bit of an understanding of what was going on by my friends, but not by any adults that I can remember. So I was surprised when I got a call from a board member who had asked me if I ever had any inappropriate interactions with this teacher.”

The board member told Hughes that the teacher she says abused her was being investigated. But she never heard back. Hughes assumed the teacher was fired. Years later, she returned to Orting and enrolled her daughter into the school district.

“I saw that he was still on the roster and that’s when I sent an email to the superintendent informing her of what happened to me and I never heard back.”

In March, she sent an email to the principal detailing her alleged abuse. The district had a third party investigator interview her. Hughes said she then found out that a former student had filed a police report against the teacher in 2010 for sexual assault. That person was Sheridan Mack.

Recently, the district told Hughes there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the teacher and the investigation was closed. She said the school district told her it didn’t reach out to the other victim and it didn’t pull the police report because it was old. Stunned, Hughes said she turned to social media on June 14 with her story.

Since that post, Hughes said she’s received overwhelming support and over 50 complaints about the teacher from other former students, as well as complaints directed toward other teachers in the Orting School District.

Hughes said there is a culture of abuse in the Orting School District that needs to stop.

Other complaints

Sheridan Mack said the same teacher groomed her while she was a student and allegedly assaulted her in 2007 when she was 20 years old. He had returned to the school for a visit after her brother graduated.

“He had me stand up to see how tall I was or something because he said I’ve grown so much,” Mack said. “And then he grabs me and pulled me against him. And I could feel him. He was telling me that I liked it, and trying to keep me there, tried to tell me to be quiet. I was freaking out because I could feel his hands all over my body. And I screamed and he got really freaked out because we were still on school premises and I think he knew he could be caught and he let me go.”

Mack said she would have taken this secret to her grave, but in 2010, she was doing her teacher training and realized it was important to help other kids. She filed a report with Orting police and filed a formal complaint with the Orting School District. She said the school board did a shoddy investigation.

“And the reason I know they didn’t actively pursue anything is because none of my classmates ever were asked,” Mack said. “They never obviously found out about Hughes, because had they found out about Hughes, that was in the same time frame, it would have validated everything I was saying.”

An Orting police report confirms a complaint was filed against the teacher in 2010. There were no charges filed because the prosecutor said it was past the statute of limitations.

In the days since Hughes’ social media post, the Orting School District has re-opened the investigation into the teacher. Officials say new evidence has come to light, though they can’t provided details. On Wednesday, the teacher was placed on administrative leave during the investigation.

The Orting School District is asking anyone with information to report it to the Safe Schools alert by texting “Orting” to 206-448-4545.

A request for comment from the teacher was not answered by the posting of this story.

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Orting students allege abuse by teacher who is still employed