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Walker: Rival failed to act on teacher with porn

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker’s first attack ad of the Wisconsin gubernatorial race was released on Wednesday and refers to a sex act while accusing the Democratic candidate Tony Evers of not doing enough to revoke the license of a teacher who viewed pornographic images on a school computer.

Walker and his Republican allies have said for more than a year that Evers, the state superintendent, didn’t do all he could to remove the Middleton middle school teacher Andrew Harris from the classroom. Evers has consistently said he didn’t then have the legal authority to revoke the teacher’s license. He later worked with the Legislature to pass a bill, which Walker signed, expanding the circumstances that warrant revocation.

Walkers’ allies have run similar ads, but this spot goes into the most detail about the investigation and its findings.

Evers’ campaign manager, Maggie Gau, accused Walker of making “disgusting, dishonest and increasingly desperate attacks” as polls show the race is roughly neck-and-neck.

“The people of Wisconsin know Tony has spent his lifetime doing what is best for our kids, that he followed the law, and when a loophole in the law on teacher licenses needed to be changed, he worked with both parties to toughen the law, so any offending teacher now would lose their license to teach,” Gau said.

The ad quotes from a Middleton-Cross Plains School District report from 2010 finding that Harris had suggested to one student that she “brush up on her sex skills because that’s all she’ll be good at later in life.” Wording from the report referring to oral sex is shown on the screen.

The ad also shows stock footage of young women talking, but not their faces, while the narrator says the teacher “commented on the chest sizes of middle school girls.”

The school investigation into Harris began in 2009 when the district received a complaint from a female teacher about emails containing nudity, crude jokes and other inappropriate material that Harris was viewing and sending to other school employees.

Harris was fired in 2010, but an arbitrator found he should have been suspended so that his punishment would be equal with that given to other teachers who had looked at explicit materials or emails while at work.

A circuit court judge and state appeals court upheld the arbitrator’s ruling and Harris returned to work in 2014. The ad notes with a closing line: “The teacher is still in the classroom with young girls.”

School boards have the authority to fire teachers. The decision to revoke a teacher’s license rests with the state education department that Evers runs. Evers successfully lobbied the Legislature to change the law in 2011 to allow for license revocation in cases in which teachers view pornography in the classroom, even if students are not exposed to it.

The law in place at the time of the Harris case required students to be endangered by the teacher’s “immoral conduct” in order to revoke a teaching license. Evers has cited that provision in the law as the reason why he couldn’t revoke Harris’s license — noting that no student had viewed the material in question.

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