Stay up to Date
Will Huntsberry's biweekly education report (Thursdays)
Westview High School officials in Poway have faced blowback for their handling of a teacher who in 2017 sent inappropriate texts to an underage student. But newly released records show another teacher was investigated for the same issue a year earlier. Both remain on staff.
When Westview High School officials in Poway investigated physical education teacher Tim Medlock in 2017 for sending inappropriate texts to an underage student, it was not the first time in the school’s recent history that a teacher had been warned about texting a female student.
Newly released documents show officials at the school investigated another teacher, Derek Peterson, in 2016 after a student reported to school officials that Peterson had texted her that he’d had an “inappropriate” dream about her.
Peterson was the head coach of Westview’s junior varsity girls basketball team; the 10th grade student he was texting was a former player on the team.
When the student asked Peterson what the dream was about, he said he would have to wait to tell her more about it when she graduated from high school.
“I also need to know that our conversations stay here and don’t get out to anyone. I trust you right?” he wrote, after telling her that she was more mature than any other student on the team.
The interaction made the student uncomfortable. So she told a school employee, and filed a formal complaint. That day, school officials began an internal investigation, records obtained by Voice of San Diego through a public records request show.
Peterson told administrators that it was common for him to text students and players, and that he told the entire girls basketball teach that he was spending too much time with them because he was starting to dream about them. Then, Peterson told officials he had “no clue” why he made the comment about the inappropriate nature of the dream to the student, those records show.
Poway Unified School District administrators ultimately found his interactions with the student to be inappropriate and unprofessional. They removed him from his coaching position and warned him against talking to other students in the same way, but allowed him to continue teaching.
Peterson did not respond to a request for comment from VOSD.
That outcome was similar to how the district handled Medlock’s case.
Medlock sent a slew of text messages like “Night night sweetie” and “Should I be jealous you have a new BFF? ;)” to a 12th grade student in his physical education class two years ago. The district ultimately gave Medlock a letter of reprimand but allowed him to continue teaching.
Poway Unified is still dealing with fallout from that case, as the family of the student involved has pressed for harsher discipline.
Medlock and Peterson both continue to teach at Westview.
Christine Paik, a spokeswoman for the district, said previously that the district could not move to fire or suspend Medlock from his teaching position because of his employee rights to due process. The same judgment applied in the decision to reprimand Peterson and will continue to apply to educators found to have engaged in similar misconduct, she said.
The Poway Unified School District recently updated its employee-use of technology policy to specify that district employees, including teachers and administrators, should refrain from communicating with students through technology for personal reasons outside of the classroom.
Voice of San Diego requested records of substantiated incidents of sexual misconduct by employees from every school district in San Diego County, including Poway Unified, in 2017.
But Peterson’s records weren’t included among the documents provided by the district last year. Officials said that’s because they didn’t categorize the case as “sexual.”