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Pacific Grove High School teacher to be released following allegations of inappropriate conduct – Monterey Herald

PACIFIC GROVE — Pacific Grove Unified School District has decided to release a teacher at Pacific Grove High School due to “serious allegations of inappropriate conduct towards female students” made earlier this school year, Pacific Grove Unified Superintendent Ralph Porras announced in a letter to the district community.

“While the process to terminate a teacher requires some time and protocol, we believe strongly in our decision and in the direction we are taking,” he wrote.

The Pacific Grove Unified Board of Trustees voted to release the teacher at a special board meeting Monday night following an investigation by the district’s legal counsel.

The process for releasing the teacher will now be turned over to an administrative law judge, who will conduct their own hearing and report back to the district board with a final recommendation. The timeline for such a decision is unknown at this time, but until then, the employee in question will remain on paid leave, which began when the district opened the investigation into the situation three weeks ago, Porras said.

Allegations of sexual misconduct against the Pacific Grove High teacher to be released from the school were expressed at Pacific Grove Unified’s regular board meeting on Oct. 7. The allegations were described through a student letter detailing a firsthand account of the employee’s behavior. In the letter, which was read aloud to the district board by the student’s mother, Pacific Grove High sports medicine teacher and local chiropractor Anthony Payan was accused of having sexually assaulted the student and another classmate during class.

The district has not identified the teacher, citing personnel and confidentiality concerns. Payan could not be reached for comment.

The student came forward with their story the week after the sexual misconduct, expressing their discomfort to Pacific Grove High English teacher Jessica Grogan and the school’s Vice Principal Sean Steinbeck. Upon the admission, Payan was placed on administrative leave and was restricted from having any access to students, the student said.

The student was then questioned by Steinbeck and multiple law enforcement agencies, who completed a forensic interview.

At the time, the Pacific Grove Police Department received the report of potential sexual assault and completed an investigation that was subsequently turned over to the Monterey District Attorney’s Office, according to Police Commander Dave Santos.

The DA’s office concluded that no criminal charges would be filed, citing a thorough investigation from the police department and no evidence of sexual intent or sexual motivation, Assistant District Attorney Chris Knight said earlier this month.

With the investigation from local authorities closed, Payan returned to Pacific Grove High. It wasn’t until the student publicly shared their story to the board last month, alongside complaints and calls to action from other members of the Pacific Grove Unified community, that the district chose to reopen the issue and pursue an investigation of its own.

This investigation proved to reveal “additional information to support the board’s decision to take steps to release the teacher,” Tuesday night’s message explained.

“While an administrative law judge will offer the final analysis and recommendation, our ultimate goal in this process is to ensure this individual is released from our district and is no longer involved in our schools,” the message continued.

Pacific Grove Unified’s release of an employee comes in the wake of other complaints circulating throughout the district.

Last month, a video surfaced on social media of a Pacific Grove High English teacher saying the N-word while reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” aloud to a class last year, prompting Porras and Pacific Grove High Principal Lito Garcia to issue a response reaffirming Pacific Grove Unified’s commitment to equity. Recognizing concerns with how the district has handled issues of equity and race in the past, the district promised to produce a new equity plan in the coming weeks.

For now, Porras reiterated that while issues like those that have arisen since the start of the school year bring up a problem of trust within the district community, Pacific Grove Unified will remain diligent in addressing complaints as transparently and quickly as possible, he said.

“Our commitment to being transparent about whatever information we can give is a demonstration that we are taking this in earnest and continuing to rebuild that trust by taking action,” said Porras. “Ultimately, we just want to make sure the very best employees are in place so that our students and staff feel safe here at school.”

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