Nearly two years after parents of a then-17-year-old student complained to Westview High School officials that a physical education teacher was sending inappropriate text messages to their daughter, the school is still dealing with the fallout from the case.
Though the school investigated the case in the summer of 2017 and officials told the student’s parents they had disciplined Tim Medlock as a result, they declined to tell the family what that discipline was.
Documents recently released to Voice of San Diego following a public records request show the discipline consisted of a letter reprimanding his behavior. Now, the family is surfacing new concerns about Medlock’s interactions with the former student and demanding he be fired. Meanwhile, some of Medlock’s supporters are rallying to his defense.
The episode drives home the extent to which a school’s handling of a misconduct case can sometimes be as disruptive as the underlying events.
Medlock sent the student a series of text messages like “Good luck stud,” “Kick some ass,” “Should I be jealous you have a new BFF? ;)” and “Hope you don’t for get me,” on weekends and weeknights, sometimes as late as 11 p.m., during her junior and senior years.
The student’s parents found the texts on their daughter’s cell phone, and reported them to then-principal Todd Cassen in April 2017. They say he agreed the messages were inappropriate. Then they made a formal complaint to the Poway Unified School District.
Medlock admitted during the investigation that several of the text messages were inappropriate. The student and her parents were not questioned as part of the district’s investigation.
“No one ever talked to (my daughter). She was the innocent child they all pushed to the side and never even asked her how she was and how did she feel about Medlock and did anything more happen?” said the student’s mother, whom VOSD is declining to identify in order to protect the former student’s identity. “They chose to protect a grown, married man who also shows no remorse for what he did. (Medlock) is laughing today that he got away with what he did.”
James Jimenez, an assistant superintendent of personnel services at the district, said the text messages themselves were enough for the district to consider in its investigation.
Poway Unified ultimately substantiated the validations.
New records obtained by Voice reveal the district issued Medlock a letter of reprimand as a result of its findings.
The letter urges Medlock to be professional in his communication and conduct with students and student athletes, and says doing otherwise could violate the Education Code and lead to suspension or other disciplinary action.
Christine Paik, a district spokeswoman, previously told Voice last month and CBS 8 in November 2017, when parents held a rally to have the Medlock fired, that the district could not have issued Medlock further discipline for the misconduct based on the findings of its investigation.
But the district’s determination during the investigation that Medlock committed “unprofessional conduct” suggests the physical education teacher could have already violated Education Code 44932 – which says school employees can be terminated for “unprofessional conduct.”
Paik said the district investigates misconduct on a case-by-case basis and did not determine the misconduct to be sexual or criminal, though the Education Code does not require such a distinction in order to warrant discipline.
“Yes, a school district does have the authority to take disciplinary action,” Paik wrote in an email. “However, Ed Code and CA code of regulations dictate that the decision regarding a public employee must not be disproportionate to the misconduct. The first complaint and investigation were specifically focused on inappropriate texting. While Mr. Medlock’s actions were determined to be unprofessional, in this case, we believe the level of discipline he received was both appropriate and effective in bringing an end to the behavior.”
The student’s parents believe the district should have meted out more serious discipline, and are concerned his behavior wasn’t reported to the state’s teacher credentialing commission. Because Medlock’s employment did not change as a result of the misconduct, the district was not required to report his behavior to the state agency.
The student’s parents filed a separate written complaint with the district in May 2018 after finding out Medlock gave their daughter tight, frontal body hugs while she attended the school, and took a photo of her in her bathing suit during a swim class to send to his wife.
The district has since been investigating the case with the family’s involvement. Jimenez said the district will release a final determination on the findings of the allegation this week.
In an emailed statement, Medlock said the complaint has already been dealt with by the district, and noted that officials never found any evidence of inappropriate physical contact between him and any students.
“As teachers we are constantly told that we must build relationships with students,” he wrote. “We are told we must ‘reach them before we can teach them.’ My efforts to build strong positive relationships has been turned into an accusation of ‘grooming.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. I am proud of the long history I have of building relationships with my students. I’m both sad and angry at how my efforts have been twisted into something so ugly and so completely against what I believe in and who I am.”
At the end of last week, some students at the school received a text message asking them to send messages supporting Medlock to district administration. Though it is unclear who crafted the text, it urged students to email Jimenez and Westview principal Tina Ziegler and to copy physical education teacher Diane Pidgeon, who works closely with Medlock.
It reads, “I am reaching out to you to take five minutes to support Coach Medlock, as he NEEDS your support right now….if you feel like so many students do — he is a man of good character, he has high morals and values and he is a positive role model and educator, then PLEASE show your support by writing a brief to the (district).”
The student’s mother saw the text message and reported it to the district this week.
“We have only been penalized for being honest and coming forward exposing what Medlock did, but he is being portrayed as the victim here,” she wrote in an email to district officials. “I am beyond upset that we are being treated so poorly when I am only trying to do the right thing and protect other young girls that may fall victim and be afraid to speak up.”
Paik said she does not know who sent the text message.
“It seems like this is tearing a community apart,” she said.