A longtime Woodcreek High School teacher with a history of inappropriate behavior was transferred but still employed in the classroom after a 14-year-old student complained that he often touched her inappropriately and flirted with her, according to documents obtained by The Sacramento Bee.
Douglas Mason, 56, who taught health at Woodcreek to ninth-graders, is now teaching the same subject to students at Oakmont and Roseville high schools, according to Roseville Joint Union High School District websites. Mason could not be reached this week.
In April, a freshman at Woodcreek told district officials that Mason had massaged her shoulders regularly, pulled an ankle-length skirt up to her knee, winked at her flirtatiously during class and asked that she call him during the summer so he could hear her voice, according to district documents. The student and her parents have requested anonymity to protect her privacy.
On one occasion, according to the teen, Mason grabbed her hands, pulled her close and essentially told her that he loved her. He also complimented her appearance, telling her “You look awesome” and “Oh, you are so fit,” according to the documents.
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The student told investigators that Mason’s behavior had made it difficult for her to concentrate in class, especially when other students commented about how he treated her, according to documents. She said she often worried about how to avoid having him massage her shoulders or touch her. She said she worried that Mason would try and lock her in the classroom.
An initial investigation by the school district concluded that Mason’s conduct violated professional standards and that the girl’s concerns were reasonable. Despite that, the district initially found the teacher’s actions did not constitute sexual harassment, according to a letter to the parents from Roseville Joint Union Assistant Superintendent Steve Williams.
The district, as one justification for its conclusion, said that although Mason’s behavior made her feel “creepy” and generally uncomfortable in class, it did not affect her grade, according to the letter.
Mason was counseled about student interactions and would not return to Woodcreek for the 2017-18 school year, Williams wrote. A profile on the Roseville High School website says he taught computer education, science, driver’s education and physical education classes during his 22-year tenure at Woodcreek. He also coached football, wrestling and track.
“The district has made it very clear to Mr. Mason that any other incident of similar behavior could result in a recommendation to the Board of Trustees to be dismissed as a teacher in the Roseville Joint Union High School District,” Williams wrote.
The district offered the teen counseling.
Mason has an extensive history of inappropriate behavior with staff and students, as well as a history of disciplinary actions as a result, according to a state Department of Education document. A district letter from Williams to the girl’s parents confirmed that several other students made allegations similar to the most recent ones, but said privacy laws prevent the district from disclosure.
After the initial district conclusion, the California Department of Education reviewed the case at the parents’ request and determined that the district had not considered all of the student’s testimony and failed to ensure Mason – referenced as “Teacher A” – would not reoffend. CDE directed Roseville Joint Union on Nov. 1 to reinvestigate and show evidence of how it would ensure the safety of students attending the schools where Mason continued to teach.
“Given Teacher A’s extensive history with inappropriate behavior with school staff and students and long history of disciplinary actions as a result, the district failed to provide evidence that the self-imposed corrective action in this case will ensure the behavior will not occur again and that Student A and other students will not be subjected to sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior in the future,” said the CDE’s Decision of Appeal.
The district agreed after the second investigation that Mason had sexually harassed the girl, but it still retained him as a teacher, according to a letter from Williams to the parents. It’s not clear if Mason faced additional punishment as a result.
The student’s mother on Thursday called the second decision frustrating, saying the teacher’s behavior made her daughter wary about going to school, especially after word got around that she had come forward. As a result of the experience, she said her daughter, now 15, is wary of men.
“I think he could repeat his behavior and my daughter would not want to see that happen, and as parents we would not want to have it happen to other students,” she said.
In a letter to the state last year, she called the decision to counsel and reassign Mason inadequate.
The district’s second corrective action plan called Mason’s behavior “highly offensive,” “inappropriate” and “unprofessional” but said it didn’t warrant termination.
“Please be aware that the district takes matters like this seriously and is taking precautionary measures to prevent this from happening at Woodcreek High School and at any of the District’s campuses,” Williams wrote in a letter to the parents.
An emailed statement to The Bee from Brad Basham, executive director of personnel services at Roseville Joint Union, said the district could not comment on a specific complaint or investigation because it is a confidential personnel matter and that it can not release confidential student or employee information.
“I can say that our board policies and professional standards require teachers to maintain appropriate personal boundaries with students and if they do not, they are subject to disciplinary consequences,” he wrote.