After James P. Verity lost his teaching license in Oregon because of allegations of a sexually-charged relationship with an 18-year old student, a fresh start to his teaching career was waiting across the state line.
The divergent decisions by education officials in Idaho and Oregon about Verity’s fitness for teaching were identified among millions of teachers’ records examined in a USA TODAY NETWORK investigation that found gaps in the nation’s fractured system for tracking teachers with histories of misconduct.
On Monday, Verity resigned following journalists’ questions to him, his school districts and state officials about his career in Oregon and Idaho. Verity is one of at least three teachers who have left or been removed from teaching positions in recent weeks after past misconduct was brought to light by the USA TODAY NETWORK investigation. The investigation also has prompted a state-by-state audit of the nation’s privately-run database of disciplined teachers and pledges from at least eight states to review their policies and practices for checking teachers’ backgrounds and sharing accurate information about teachers they discipline.
Verity’s disciplinary trouble began about a decade ago at Crook County High School in Oregon. The state’s Teacher Standards and Practices Commission revoked his license for one year in 2006 after state officials found Verity, a teacher and coach of the high school girls’ basketball team, engaged in physical conduct with the student, “including kissing on the lips, neck and earlobe, grinding his pelvis in her pelvic area and touching her breasts and groin area” in 2005, according to state records.
The state’s investigation also found he exchanged about 2,600 text messages with the student over a three-month period and talked on the phone with her for 507 hours from November 2004 to May 2005, according to the Oregon disciplinary records.
Verity applied for a reinstatement of his Oregon license starting in 2007, submitting evaluations from two psychiatrists about his fitness to teach. State records show one of the psychiatrists said Verity “should not coach high school aged girls or be left alone with female students over 12.” The doctor also raised questions about Verity’s truthfulness. The Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission denied his application for reinstatement in a 2009 order, deeming him unfit to teach because “educators must be individuals who can be entrusted with children of all ages” and “trusted to lead a group of students, regardless of gender.”
At the same time, Verity mounted a successful effort to obtain a teaching license in neighboring Idaho. After an initial denial, Idaho officials granted his application on appeal in 2009.
In its order granting Verity’s license, the Idaho Department of Education’s Professional Standards Commission cited a psychologist’s opinion that he had been rehabilitated through therapy and “was contrite, embarrassed and humble about his misconduct.” The Idaho order notes Verity “continued to coach youth sports since leaving his Oregon teaching position with no known recurrences of problems.”
Caldwell School District in Idaho then hired him, and he worked there from 2010 through 2014. Caldwell Superintendent Jodie Mills told USA TODAY the district followed all the proper hiring protocols, but was never made aware his license had been revoked in Oregon. Mills said that revocation would “absolutely” have been a concern had the district known.
Source: USA Today | Steve Reilly