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State law, union rules guide teacher-arrest responses

Forest Grove district officials answer policy questions after teacher arrest

The August arrest of Neil Armstrong Middle School teacher Mike Terou Maraia for possession of methamphetamine and soliciting a prostitute has sparked questions online and around town about policies surrounding teacher terminations.

Maraia was placed on paid administrative leave a few days after the arrest and some people are upset Maraia is still getting paid. They’re also wondering why the school district didn’t know he was arrested last spring for possession of a controlled substance in Washington County.

Sgt. Bob Ray, Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said that crimes are usually reported to districts when they involve children or schools or when investigators are on the look out for additional victims. While every case is different, Ray said, drug-related and prostitution charges wouldn’t necessarily require a report to the school district.

Maraia did inform district officials about his 2003 convictions of harassment and fourth-degree assault in Washington County when they happened. The courts placed Maraia on two years of supervised probation for those convictions and required him to participate in a domestic violence intervention program.

Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 342.865 outlines the specific conditions under which a teacher under contract can be fired, including conviction of a felony or of misdemeanors on a list that includes prostitution but not harassment or fourth-degree assault.KEVIN NOREEN

School district administrators cannot comment on Maraia’s prostitution and methamphetamine case because they are investigating it and he has not yet been convicted of a crime. But the district’s director of human resources, Kevin Noreen, was able to answer a few of the News-Times’ questions about general district policy as it relates to staff member arrests.

When a staff member is arrested for a crime, the district does not automatically have to place the person on leave, unless the crimes are related to sexual misconduct or child abuse, as required by Oregon law.

Most educators are part of a union, which requires due process after a teacher commits a crime that could warrant termination. If a staff member is arrested, he or she has the right to a meeting with school leaders, who present the alleged violations and give the employee a chance to share his or her side of the story.

The accused “has the right to know what the alleged violations are,” Noreen said.

The school district conducts its own investigation through official records and interviews with all relevant sources, as well as considering any convictions or aquittals through the legal system, he added.

Until the district completes its investigation and makes a decision, school officials can’t take away the accused staff member’s pay, which is considered a disciplinary action.

Once an investigation is complete, Noreen will either recommend the district take no action; handle the case as an private personnel matter; or recommend termination to the superintendent.

That last option requires a pre-termination hearing, where district officials either decide not to fire the staff member or recommend termination to the school board.

The staff member then has 20 days to request a hearing in front of the school board if termination has been recommended. Such hearings are held in executive session — closed to members of the public — unless the staff member requests it be public. After that, the school board votes on whether or not to fire the person at a public meeting.

The Forest Grove School District does background checks on all staff members before they are hired, but does not have a policy that requires teachers to report arrests or convictions once they’ve been hired. The district does not drug-test employees.