Education

Teacher accused of harassing teen had past complaints. He asked a judge not to release them

Roseville teacher Doug Mason was placed on administrative leave by the Roseville Joint Union High School District.
Roseville teacher Doug Mason was placed on administrative leave by the Roseville Joint Union High School District.

Doug Mason, a Roseville teacher put on paid administrative leave in January for allegedly sexually harassing a 14-year-old girl, is asking a Placer County judge not to allow the release of public documents outlining other complaints and possible discipline against him.

The reverse California Public Records Act request, filed under the name "Roseville teacher," asks the court to stop Roseville Joint Union High School District from releasing public records requested by The Sacramento Bee on Jan. 17. The request asks for copies of complaints against Mason, as well as documentation of discipline or investigations of the teacher between 2008 and 2018.

Mason's petition says the request would violate his and his family's privacy, and subject him to "publicity, scorn, and obloquy."

The public records request was prompted by a complaint filed by a freshman at Woodcreek High School last April. The girl said that Mason had massaged her shoulder 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.

The district investigated and transferred Mason to Oakmont and Roseville high schools. After a Sacramento Bee story outlined the allegations, as well as information that indicated that Mason had a long history of inappropriate behavior and discipline, he was placed on paid administrative leave. The district's investigation is ongoing, according to Brad Basham, executive director of Personnel Services for the school district.

The story prompted outrage on social media, including the circulation of an online petition demanding Mason’s dismissal. As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition on Change.org had 796 supporters. It also prompted students and parents to contact the school district and The Bee with similar allegations against Mason.

Mason and his attorney filed the petition to stop the release of the public information on March 15, after the school district sent him a list of the investigative and personnel records they planned to give to the paper. Mason's petition acknowledges that the records include statements from students about the teacher. It also says he disputes information generated by the investigation.

The petition will be be heard at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday in Department 40, Placer Superior Court in Roseville.

The teacher says the alleged sexual harassment was not substantial or serious. "While I may have made some mistakes in judgment as I strived to support and be accessible to my students, I emphatically state that I have not engaged in sexual assault or harassment, " he said in court documents. "I have never touched a student inappropriately."

Mason's petition also contends that releasing the public documents would intrude on his privacy and the privacy of students and that there is not enough significant public interest in the issue to disclose them. The release of the documents, which would not include student names, but would include dates, school site and the subject the teacher taught as well as other information that could identify the students, according to the petition.

The Roseville school district response to the petition argues that an employee's right to privacy is outweighed by the public's right to obtain records, specifically if there are well-founded, substantial complaints against a public employee. The district response also contends that the district did a thorough investigation and found the allegations to be serious, resulting in disciplinary action.

The district's response to Mason's reverse CPRA request indicates that there were five different complaints that are eligible for disclosure through the Public Records Act.

Since the article ran in January, callers to The Sacramento Bee have recounted a number of questionable incidents including one in which Mason reportedly stripped naked in front of male and female student athletes and others, including a small child, before a wrestling practice in the school cafeteria over Thanksgiving break in 2012.

Geri Thomas, whose daughter was on the wrestling team and in the cafeteria that day, filed a complaint in August 2013. An internal investigation substantiated Thomas’ claim, saying the coach exposed himself for one to five seconds while changing before practice.

While the district concluded in its investigative report that Mason’s behavior was disrespectful, unprofessional and inappropriate, it said it could not be substantiated that the coach had exposed himself intentionally. “The district will follow up and appropriate action will be taken,” according to the report.

District documents show that Mason stepped down from his coaching position in 2013, but it is not clear whether it was because of these complaints.

A profile on the Roseville High School website says Mason 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. Court documents filed by Mason say he has been a teacher for 26 years — 24 of them with the Rocklin Joint Union High School District.

The Thomas family complaint included allegations that Mason had made inappropriate comments to the husband, their daughter and the girl’s boyfriend. In the complaint Thomas said Mason told Curt Thomas that his daughter’s “boobs” were getting bigger and her hips wider because that is what happens to girls who are having sex.

The district investigation concluded that there was not enough evidence to substantiate that Mason had made sexually inappropriate comments. The district said it would continue to provide required training for coaches that would outline the boundaries of acceptable conversations with players and parents.

The stories of the former students who contacted The Bee vary, but overwhelmingly callers say their interactions with Mason have left a permanent impression on them. Many said they immediately thought of Mason when they read the headline “District finds teacher regularly harassed 14-year-old girl.”

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

  Comments