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Walker upset porn-viewing teacher keeping license; District releases statement

Published On: Apr 17 2014 12:32:06 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 17 2014 04:26:00 PM CDT

Courtesy MCPASD

School district photo of Andrew Harris dated 2009.

MADISON, Wis. -

Gov. Scott Walker disagrees with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's decision not to revoke the license of a teacher who viewed pornographic emails at work.

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the governor believes DPI does have the legal authority to revoke his license and it should do that.

DPI announced Thursday it will not revoke the license of Andrew Harris, a Middleton teacher accused of receiving and sharing explicit emails while on the job.

Harris was a seventh-grade teacher at Glacier Creek Middle School until he was terminated in 2010 after being accused of receiving and sharing explicit emails while on the job. Arbitrators ruled the school district wrongly fired Harris and he should be reinstated. He returned to the classroom in January.

Walker asked Wisconsin state Superintendent Tony Evers to start proceedings to revoke Harris’ license saying Harris’ behavior meets the definition of immoral conduct cited in state statutes. A DPI investigation of Harris started in May 2010.

A letter from DPI’s director of education information services released Wednesday states Harris’ accused misconduct occurred before a change in state law in 2011 that redefined immoral conduct.

“While Andrew Harris’s conduct was highly inappropriate for an educator, it does not meet the legal definition of immoral conduct contained in the 2008-09 law,” the letter states. “Specifically, the Department’s investigation confirmed the school district’s public statements that Andrew Harris’s conduct did not involve children in any manner.”

The letter states that the Middleton-Cross Plains School District has spent about $1 million on costs and legal fees in the case.

A statement from the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District said "The MCPASD Board of Education took a stand against viewing pornography in school and requested a review of this case four years ago. Our state superintendent clearly doesn't believe viewing pornography in school over a long period of time justifies license revocation. Thankfully, the legislature clarified this law to make certain that no other school district will have to deal with a similar case again. Our school district is abiding by the ruling of the arbitrator, and will provide the best possible environment for our students and our employees."

A group of parents picketed outside Kromrey Middle School against the decision to allow Harris back into the school.

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