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School Let Teacher Accused of Inappropriate Touching Back in Class. Another Student Complained.

A teacher accused by 14 students of innappropriate touching and other behavior at the end of last school year returned to the classroom this year after a stern reprimand – then another student complained about his behavior.
San Dieguito Academy

San Dieguito Academy / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

After San Dieguito High School Academy math teacher Donn Boyd was reprimanded last May for inappropriate behavior with students, he finished out the school year and returned to the classroom for a new year in the fall, school district officials confirmed for the first time this week.

Boyd wasn’t at the Encinitas campus long before attracting another student complaint for excessive touching, newly disclosed San Dieguito Union High School District documents show.

“On October 31, 2017, the District received a complaint from a female student alleging that Boyd made her uncomfortable by touching her arms, shoulders, back and asking for hugs and that she believes other female students feel this way too,” a March 5 letter to VOSD from Tina Douglas, district associate superintendent of business services, says. “Boyd was immediately placed on leave pending investigation into the allegation.”

Boyd has been on paid leave since Oct. 31. By December, he was notified student complaints and related district investigation records and correspondence would be released to Voice of San Diego under a California Public Records Act request filed in late November.

In January, Boyd reached a deal with the district to remain on paid leave and resign on June 30, ending his 24-year career in the district. His teaching credential is still valid, and he has no public record of discipline from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, according to the commission’s website.

District documents show 14 students complained to school officials about Boyd in May 2017. Several said he touched them, hugged them or massaged their shoulders, making them uncomfortable. One said he kissed her on the forehead. Other students said they witnessed him touch other students, or reported he made suggestive remarks and requests of female students.

Boyd declined to be interviewed last month, but in a letter to the district he initially shot down all the allegations as pure fiction made up by students with an axe to grind. In a subsequent letter to the district in December, he acknowledged some touching occurred, but said students misinterpreted his intentions.

Before this week, school district officials had not said whether Boyd returned to the classroom after he was reprimanded last May and urged by the principal to “learn from this experience.”

He was also given a directive at the time: “Moving forward it is important that you are very intentional in your decisions regarding student interactions. You need to avoid touching female students, including but not limited to backrubs, touching necks, or any contact that could be perceived as inappropriate.”

District officials now say he returned to the classroom from Aug. 29 through Oct. 31, when a new student submitted a complaint. The district provided that complaint this week.

“Mr. Boyd has made me and other students, primarily female, feel uncomfortable. From my experience, he has the tendancy (sic) to make me feel uncomfortable by always finding a way to touch me or hug me,” the student wrote in the Oct. 31 complaint. “He often touches my shoulders and back and has even asked for hugs.”

When Boyd asked for a hug, the student – whose name was withheld – said she “felt obligated to say yes because he’s also one of those teachers that will make the class much more difficult for you. I felt obligated to say yes because I don’t want to fail his class but at the same I didn’t want him to hug me. Weekly, almost daily, he touches my shoulders and arms and it’s very uncomfortable and distracting. I always feel hesitant asking for help during lunch or afterschool because I don’t really want to be alone with him. Other girls feel this way too.”

Boyd did not respond to emails this week seeking an interview about the October complaint, which was left out of the records initially produced by the district.

Douglas and San Dieguito Superintendent Eric Dill did not answer emails asking why the latest complaint was only produced this week. Voice of San Diego’s public records request submitted in late November sought records spanning the last 10 years.

Boyd addressed the October student complaint in a Jan. 8 letter to the district, saying he “did touch the outside of her shoulders once to get her attention as I have done before with other students, both male and female.”

Boyd asked the district to interview a third-party witness in the classroom “to confirm the inaccuracy of this student’s alleging that I touched her ‘almost daily,’ including any hugs.” He also said he’s never treated any student unfairly.

Any contact he’s made with students, he said, was to “either re-direct them, to comfort, or to celebrate with them; and none were unwelcomed or complained about. It saddens me that a few students have mischaracterized my actions and attributed some illicit motives to me.”

Read his full response here.

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