State gives former band teacher two years of probation
A former band teacher for Crook County School District was hit with two years of probation by Oregon's Teacher Standards and Practices Commission last month.
The commission charged Kenneth Chaney, who taught band at Crook County High School and Middle School, with gross neglect of duty on Aug. 30. The decision was prompted by several complaints from students, parents and school district leaders regarding a pattern of behavior that reportedly began in October 2014 and continued until September 2018, shortly before he resigned his position due to medical reasons.
According to a Default Order of Public Reprimand and Probation document filed Sept. 20, on Feb. 9, 2018, the commission received a report from Crook County School District indicating Chaney had engaged in conduct that may be considered gross neglect of duty and/or gross unfitness. On April 10, 2018, and again on Oct. 16, 2018, the commission received additional reports from the district reporting further possible misconduct on the part of Chaney related to the original February report.
Specifically, the district reported Chaney repeatedly engaged in inappropriate classroom management despite multiple administrative interactions, coaching, evaluations, directives and reprimands intended to improve his performance and correct behavior.
A subsequent investigation determined that a pattern of behavior developed. That conclusion was established using student complaints, parent complaints, administrative observations, and employment evaluations that centered on Chaney's methods of classroom management and student interactions.
According to the commission, the issues raised included inappropriate usage of sarcasm; bullying students; shaming students; making students cry; and using negative, demeaning, and sarcastic references towards students or the class as a whole.
Students reported being in fear, pushed to tears, singled out, harassed, yelled at, and humiliated. The commission reported that as a result of this behavior, a disproportionate number of students requested to transfer out of Chaney's class over multiple years.
The commission states that district administrators attempted to address these issues by verbal warnings and counseling, written reprimands, coaching, evaluation feedback, written directives and progressive disciplinary action related to Chaney's conduct and district policy violations. These included directives to stop making negative, demeaning, sarcastic and derogatory comments towards students, improve student rapport and relationships, decrease/eliminate students transferring out of the class, and increase the student improvement numbers within the band program.
On May 9, 2018, based on progressive disciplinary action, Chaney was placed on a plan of assistance. However, on Sept. 24, 2018, an incident occurred in which Chaney slammed an instrument case and reportedly intimidated students. This incident resulted in a disciplinary suspension for related policy violations.
A preliminary investigation report includes an interview with Chaney where he addressed many of the complaints including the slamming of the instrument case.
"I slammed it down on my desk out of frustration," he said. "I was sleep deprived. The case pinched my hand and I got upset. I understand how it must have looked to the students but it wasn't about them."
A summary of the interview states that Chaney "both admits and denies some of the behavior documented in the report."
"What he admits to, he indicates was never done with ill intent and was never done in a manner which was intended to be negative or hurtful toward students," the summary states.
Chaney also volunteered during the interview that he had been very sick during the timeframe of the complaints.
He said that "in hindsight, I should have taken more time off. I was not in a good place to be teaching. Normally, I would have been more in control."
On Oct. 2, 2018, about one week after the instrument case slamming incident, Chaney resigned his employment with school district, citing medical reasons.
The commission has issued a public reprimand upon Chaney's Oregon educator license. In addition, the commission has placed him on probation for a period of two years.
Chaney had a 21-day window to request a hearing on the disciplinary action, but through his attorney, he advised that he would not request a hearing.
Chaney has been licensed by the commission since Sept. 1, 2006 and his license is valid from Sept. 24, 2018, through Sept. 23, 2021.
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