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MONROE — A former Whitmer High School teacher’s allegedly inappropriate relationships with students — and whether past Washington Local administrators agreed to hide those allegations — led to his firing from an assistant principal job in Monroe Public Schools and finger-pointing between the two districts.
Scott A. Tucker, 46, taught at Whitmer from 1997 until 2001, when he resigned. During his time there, he coached the baseball and freshman football teams. Mr. Tucker’s separation agreement with Washington Local stipulated that it not be included in any public files but instead be held by the district’s attorney.
From 2004 until 2008, he taught in Monroe and was then promoted to assistant principal of Monroe Middle School. But he was suspended last year, and in December he agreed to resign, with an effective resignation date of June 30. He has a salary of $79,000.
Both resignations stemmed from allegations made while Mr. Tucker taught at Whitmer. Both the Toledo Police Department and Lucas County Children Services investigated reports that he allegedly engaged in sexual relationships with Whitmer students.
Investigators did not file charges based on the allegations. Mr. Tucker admitted to a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old woman but said they waited until she graduated, according to police and Monroe records.
Monroe officials say Mr. Tucker lied about his past and withheld information about the allegations to get his job in their district. Had Washington Local not concealed its separation agreement with Mr. Tucker, they say, he would not have been hired.
“I would not even consider not allowing that information to be passed on,” Monroe Superintendent Randy Monday said of the separation agreement. “That to me is common sense of ethics.”
Career takes turn
Many who held administrative positions in both districts have since retired or died. Current Washington Local administrators said they knew nothing of the agreement Mr. Tucker reached with the district in 2001, and they would have provided any information they had about his time in Washington Local if Monroe had asked.
Washington Local officials dispute Monroe’s contention that they were asked about Mr. Tucker in 2008 and denied knowledge of the agreement. They point out that when asked in August, 2012, district officials were upfront about the agreement and provided it and other records to Monroe. Washington Local Superintendent Patrick Hickey also said his administration has released four employees over similar allegations.
“If the same situation were presented [as in 2001],” Mr. Hickey said, “we wouldn’t be making an agreement and having it stored at our attorney’s office.”
Throughout his career, Mr. Tucker received laudatory performance reviews and strong letters of recommendations from peers. But his time at Washington Local took a sour turn in 1999, when allegations about his conduct with students emerged.
That October, Toledo police began investigating Mr. Tucker after someone complained that he had a sexual relationship with a former Whitmer student, who was 18. The woman disclosed they had begun a sexual relationship soon after her graduation, according to police records.
The pair continued the relationship for some time. Mr. Tucker, for instance, picked the woman up from a party involving Whitmer students at some point that summer, angering some of the woman’s friends who unsuccessfully chased after them, according to the police report.
That fall, the woman’s mother confronted Mr. Tucker about his relationship with her daughter during a Whitmer coaches’ meeting, police reports show.
Both Mr. Tucker and the 18-year-old insisted they did not have sex while she was a student. They said they had been contacting each other outside of school during the school year, according to the police investigation, but Mr. Tucker maintained it was as a mentoring relationship.
But some whom police interviewed said they found the relationship while the student was still in school to have been inappropriate. A teacher told police Mr. Tucker spoke during the school year of the student being at his house, police records show. Whitmer students, especially players on the baseball team he coached, lost respect for him, the teacher told police.
And in 2012, the woman’s mother told Monroe school investigators her daughter admitted to having dated Mr. Tucker before her graduation, school records show.
According to the police report, investigators believed Mr. Tucker had acted inappropriately, but the woman’s denials and lack of cooperation with the investigation prompted them to clear the case as unfounded.
“Due to the numerous inconsistencies and some eyewitness accounts, it is apparent that there is some inappropriate behavior that has occured between the parties, due to [the woman] being a student at the time of the incident,” investigators wrote. “However, this detective has spoke [sic] to the prosecutor’s office, and due to [the woman’s] unwillingness to proceed, this case will be closed.”
New allegations surfaced against Mr. Tucker in 2000. Lucas County Children Services began an investigation that December into a report that he had sexually abused a student, and Mr. Tucker was suspended. Children Services determined the allegations were unfounded and said his interactions with the unnamed student were found not to be criminal, according to an agency letter in Mr. Tucker’s Washington Local file.
Through his attorney, Mr. Tucker declined to be interviewed for this story. In a statement provided by his attorney, he called the allegations against him misleading and hurtful and said he thought he had put the matter behind him 13 years ago.
“I am proud of my accomplishments and the positive impact I had through my many years of service to the Monroe community, and I am heavily saddened by these most recent events,” he said in the statement.
And in a statement he placed in his Monroe personnel file rebutting the charges against him, Mr. Tucker rejected the allegations and insisted he never lied. He said that no investigation had found wrongdoing on his part at Washington Local, and that the Washington Local superintendent at the time had encouraged him to continue in education.
He also claims that Monroe administrators who hired him knew about the allegations.
“I was shocked and distressed when this suddenly became an issue in August of this year,” he wrote, “after so much time had passed since I was hired and promoted.”
In January, 2001, Mr. Tucker resigned from Washington Local, effective the following June. During the interim period, he was assigned to curriculum-review duties at home, according to an unsigned copy of an agreement he reached with the district.
At dispute’s core
It’s that agreement that underlies the dispute between Washington Local and Monroe.
An unsigned copy of the agreement calls for the Washington Local school board to provide him a letter of recommendation and for all inquiries about Mr. Tucker to be forwarded to Michael Carmean, now deceased and then the district’s superintendent, or Mr. Carmean’s successors. It directs Mr. Carmean or his successor to reference requests about Mr. Tucker in a “manner consistent” with his agreed-to letter of reference.
And the agreement stipulates it not be placed in any public Washington Local file and only be held by the school board’s lawyer.
When Mr. Tucker applied to Monroe in 2004, he stated he had never been asked to resign from a position and had never resigned rather than face disciplinary action. Monroe officials say that is a lie.
In 2008, when Mr. Tucker applied to be an assistant principal, Ryan McLeod, now Monroe’s assistant superintendent, confronted him about talk of past misconduct, according to the district’s investigation. Mr. Tucker told him that it was lies, according to a tenure charge against Mr. Tucker. A tenure charge is a formal process Michigan schools take when seeking discipline against tenured teachers.
Mr. McLeod said he called Whitmer and spoke to an an associate principal who had worked with Mr. Tucker. That administrator denied knowledge of allegations against Mr. Tucker, Mr. McLeod says. A different Monroe administrator told Mr. McLeod that the Washington Local human resources director at the time also denied knowledge of any allegations.
Both Mr. Hickey and Nancy Brenton, Washington Local’s current human resources director, say they can’t confirm those conversations’ occurrence, and administrators they’ve asked said they don’t recall speaking to anyone about Mr. Tucker.
In August, Monroe again inquired about Mr. Tucker after a sheriff’s liaison mentioned talk regarding his past. This time, Mr. McLeod spoke to Ms. Brenton, who promptly shared the separation agreement. Mr. McLeod said Ms. Brenton was forthcoming and helpful. Others at Washington Local, he said, were not.
“I will tell you, Nancy Brenton was fantastic to work with,” he said. “But beyond that, [interactions with Washington Local] just didn’t seem right.”
Ms. Brenton said she unexpectedly found the unsigned copy of the separation agreement in Mr. Tucker’s personnel file, which she said she would have shared with anyone who inquired. Whether the district’s past human-resources administrators meant the document to be public or why a copy was in his file, is unclear.
“The fact is that when I heard about it, I went to his personnel file, and it [the agreement] was in there,” Mr. Hickey said. “Our personnel file was public record.”
Law firm Spengler Nathanson represented Washington Local at the time of the agreement, and attorney Cheryl Wolff said she probably was involved in the agreement. She was unsure if the agreement was signed, and her firm hasn’t found a copy in its office. She agreed with Ms. Brenton that the document is a public record but said her firm never received a request for the agreement.
Agreements allowing teachers to quietly resign when misconduct was alleged, washing a district’s hands of a problem but allowing the teachers to seek work elsewhere, were common in the 1970s and 1980s, Ms. Brenton said, a practice called “pass the trash.”
“Today, people are far more diligent,” she said.
Mr. Tucker’s separation agreement with the Monroe district stipulates that his tenure charge be placed in his personnel file.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.