Parents protest back-to-school for convicted teacher

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by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on August 30, 2010 at 6:21 AM

MORTON, Wash. --- Several parents in Lewis County are organizing a picket Monday morning to protest the return of a junior high teacher who spent 20 days in jail for assaulting female students.

On the first day of school at Morton Junior/Senior High, protesters said they will be lined up outside while bikers have offered to escort children to their classes, all as a way to demand the state revoke Michael Mouton's teaching credentials.

"He's been charged, he's been convicted, he's been sentenced, and he's been given his classroom back." said Jennifer Mau, one of the mothers who organized the protest.

Moulton, 56, is expected to be teaching history and a study skills class. At least a third of Moulton's potential students this fall have opted out of his class, said Morton Schools Superintendent Tom Manke.

On Sunday night, a group of parents and children gathered at a home in Morton to create picket signs and name tags that included phrases like, "Hands Off, Creep" and "Don't touch our babies!"

Among those in attendance were people who claim to be former victims, like Belinda Sieland.

"It's hard to explain the feelings that I went through," she said.  Sieland claims she was assaulted in 1995 by Michael Moulton when she was babysitting for him in his home.  While her case was thrown out, several other accusations popped up later.

"It's really disturbing to hear year after year that he's still in the school district and nothing's being done," Sieland said.

In 2008, Moulton was accused of inappropriately touching four girls. Moulton has said they were actually pats meant as encouragement for good work. Moulton filed an Alford plea to the criminal charges. 

Though considered a guilty plea in the courts, an Alford plea allows defendants to acknowledge they would likely lose the case in trial while not admitting guilt.

The school district fired Moulton last year after the plea, but he appealed the decision.  A hearing examiner ruled in his favor, determining that firing Moulton was too severe of a punishment since he'd already been suspended for 12 days without pay prior to the jail sentence.

"It's really kind of a sickening feeling to realize that a person can do what they've done and continue to be in custodial control of kids," said Pat Ettenhofer, whose eldest daughter also claimed to be inappropriately touched by Moulton. 

Ettenhofer said he pulled her out of the school district and home-schooled her for three years following the allegations.

"She talked to a counselor to try to work through it, it was quite emotional for her and quite tough on her," he said.

With the picket signs, name tags and bikers, protesters hope to convey a statewide message.

"We're not here to make Morton School District look bad, because it's not them," said Mau. "We're here to get the attention of [state Superintendent of Public Instruction] Randy Dorn."

 

"Being 15 [at the time], not having a voice, and knowing the things I do now," said Belinda Sieland, "I just want these children, these victims to know that it's okay to stand up."

Moulton was at his home Sunday evening, but declined to speak with KING-5.

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