The resignation of two Middleton High School staff members and coaches this fall after they admitted to having sex at the school followed an investigation that the district’s superintendent lauded as aggressive and fair.
“I think that helps us with parents. They see that it never should have happened, but we found out about it, took care of it and it’s already over with,” Middleton-Cross Plains Superintendent Don Johnson said.
Johnson said investigations by the district and Middleton police led to the resignations of Isaac Mezera, 38, who was an English teacher, the boys track coach and the boys and girls cross country coach, and Heather Burdett, 30, who was the school nurse and a coach for the junior varsity volleyball team. Mezera resigned on Oct. 1 and Burdett resigned on Dec. 2, said Johnson’s executive assistant, Cheryl Janssen.
The misconduct was uncovered in September when district technical systems flagged Mezera’s school-provided computer for having sexually explicit content, Johnson said.
Middleton police investigated after Burdett initially said she didn’t consent to sexual activity with Mezera that occurred at the school and elsewhere, mostly during the 2014-15 school year.
Burdett later told investigators she did give consent, according to a police report. The investigation found no evidence that either teacher was sexually involved with any students or that any students or other employees knew about the inappropriate conduct.
The systems that flagged Mezera’s computer are part of the district’s three-pronged approach to stop inappropriate conduct by district staff, Johnson said.
The strategy resulted from a district investigation in 2009 showed that more than 30 teachers allegedly viewed or shared pornographic or sexually inappropriate images, jokes or videos on district computers.
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The district suspended or reprimanded seven employees and fired one teacher, Andrew Harris, though he was reinstated during a lengthy and costly court battle.
Johnson said he was proud of how quickly the situation with Mezera and Burdett was handled and resolved.
“It shows that when these situations do occur, we’re going to deal with them aggressively, fairly and be as transparent as we can,” he said.
Inappropriate relationships between teachers can be a safety issue for schools even if students aren’t directly involved, according to a former chief of staff to the U.S. education secretary who owns a company that tracks inappropriate conduct between teachers and students across the country.
“The safety of the kids has to be the No. 1 priority at every school,” said Terry Abbott, chairman of Drive West Communications in Houston. “If you have an employee involved with another teacher right there at the school or right there in the classroom, then that’s someone who can also be a danger to the children.”
Johnson agreed that Mezera and Burdett posed an element of danger to the school.
“People aren’t going to be afraid for their lives, but we don’t want to expose our children at any level to sexual activity,” he said.