High School Teacher Under Indictment for Child Molestation

(see the update to this story)

By Patric Hedlund and Gary Meyer

A science teacher newly hired by Frazier Mountain High School is under indictment in New Mexico for two counts of criminal sexual contact with a minor under 13 years of age, according to the website of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

A grand jury indicted David Deshler, 44 on October 11, 2007 in Española, just north of Santa Fe, for what the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper termed, “inappropriate touching of a 7-year-old girl.” The charges were dropped in April, 2008, then re-filed on May 15. Jury selection is now set to commence on September 18, 2008.

Principal Dan Penner said in an interview Monday, Aug. 25 that Deshler had been hired to teach “physical science and biology” at the high school. A substitute teacher is now handling that class, Penner said. El Tejon Unified School District Superintendent Shelly Mason replied to an inquiry, “Mr. Deshler is on leave, and the District is following through with the appropriate investigation.”

The minutes of the June 5, 2008 meeting of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) includes in its report that all certification documents for David A. Deshler of Frazier Park “are suspended for a period of one hundred twenty (120) days and any pending applications are denied for misconduct pursuant to Education Code sections 44421 and 44345.” Those code sections include references to moral turpitude and unprofessional conduct. The consent agenda of CTC’s August 7-8, 2008 meeting shows that the Commission was to rescind the suspension, but the minutes were not available at press time. If the suspension is rescinded, Deshler’s teaching credential is valid and he is free to teach in California.

Public documents regarding Deshler’s legal problems were revealed after several parents complained about what they said was his inappropriate behavior at the Pine Mountain Club swimming pool, including taking photos of children, on Saturday, Aug. 16. A parent asked him to stop and a sheriff was called. Deshler was interviewed and his camera examined, according to Kern County Sheriff’s Sgt. Bryan Armendariz. Deputies report they found no photos of children (except for a wide shot of the pool). "Deputies ran a records check on the individual and found he had no warrants and he was not a Megans Law (sex offender) registrant. His occupation was not confirmed," Armendariz replied in an email inquiry.  At an open-air concert on the golf course later that same day, Deshler again appeared and began taking photos of children, parents said. Parent Kevin Waites approached Deshler and asked him to move on.

Deshler was described as behaving in an aggressive manner toward concerned parents. Pine Mountain parent Scott Robinson said parents noticed the New Mexico license plate and began making internet inquiries. The Mountain Enterprise independently verified the public reports and has obtained New Mexico court records.

Penner said fingerprinting for FMHS is conducted by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS), whose credentialing representative Sylvia Trenor told The Mountain Enterprise that credential background checks are conducted by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). However, background checks by the CTC are conducted only for credentialing and not for employers making hiring decisions.

Fingerprints are required for both credentialing and employment. We asked a CTC representative on Monday, Aug. 25 how a job applicant—if their fingerprints had been checked by the United States Department of Justice—could be hired to teach in a California school while under indictment since 2007 for child molestation in another state and while under suspension by the CTC itself? The CTC representative said, “That’s a good question, let me have you speak with our legal department,” and then transferred the call to a dead phone line.

The following day, CTC Staff Counsel Lee Pope explained that the Commission cannot suspend a credential based on an indictment alone. He said there must be sufficient evidence, independent of records from an unfinished court case, to support a suspension by the Commission.

Pope said that, without knowing the details of a specific case, he could only generalize by saying, “The timing of the events could be a significant factor,” referring to our question of how someone could be hired while under indictment and under suspension by the CTC.

The CTC suspended Deshler’s credential at its June 5 meeting. The Mountain Enterprise has inquired, but ETUSD has not revealed Deshler’s hiring date and date of leave.

CTC’s Staff Counsel Pope later called to confirm by telephone that the CTC reversed its suspension of Deshler’s credential at its August 7-8 meeting.

Asked whether the CTC is responsible for alerting school districts to suspensions of teachers’ credentials, Pope said, “We publish all actions by the commission to all school districts, county offices of education and some private schools. We first publish the consent calendar on the website, then we compile it with more specific data, including date of birth and social security numbers,” which goes out as a hard copy to those same agencies.

Asked who is responsible for knowing whether a job applicant’s credential has been suspended by the CTC, Pope said, “the employer.”

This is part of the August 29, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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