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Teacher disciplined for receiving foot massages from students, violating professional standards

Published December 3, 2012 5:31 pm

Taylorsville • Third-grade teacher disciplined over odd conduct with students.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Taylorsville Elementary School teacher has returned to his third-grade classroom after being disciplined for violating professional standards after students reported they scratched his back, rubbed his feet and had other inappropriate contact while at school.

Granite School District officials found no criminal conduct by elementary teacher Bryan Watts, 53, who has worked at the school since 2004, but the district claims to have taken "appropriate disciplinary action" following complaints about Watts.

"The district has put measures in place so no inappropriate actions can be taken [by Watts]," Doug Larson, district director of policy and legal services, said Monday.

Larson said he could not go into detail about the disciplinary action because of state laws dealing with public employees. Utah teacher records are exempt from the state's public records law, he said.

Granite District police Detective Randall Porter started an investigation into Watts' conduct Oct. 9 after a mother expressed concern to the district after her daughter reported odd classroom behavior by Watts.

"She complained that her daughter [name redacted] told her that Watts asks students to rub his feet and back during 'movie time,' that Watts told the class that they should not tell their parents about activities that happen in the classroom, and that Watts scared a student by hitting a hammer on the student's desk," Porter wrote in his 19-page report.

Porter interviewed a school psychologist, a school employee, the parent and eight current and former students about Watts' classroom conduct. Taylorsville Elementary, built in 1962, is located at 2010 W. 4230 South.

In the end, officials found there was no evidence of criminal conduct by Watts.

But officials said there were student statements about odd activities, including playing dodgeball in Watts' classroom.

"[The student] said Watts did not throw the ball hard," Porter wrote.

Watts did not return an email and phone call requesting comment about the investigation into his teaching practices.

Prior to the police investigation, Taylorsville Elementary Principal Michelle Love-Day looked into an accusation that Watts stepped on a student's hand, which he said was an accident, the report said.

"Love-Day was concerned that Watts was talking to the students about her investigation and affecting their statements to her," Porter wrote.

Upon request, Porter accompanied the principal and another school official to Watts' classroom to let him know he would be put on administrative leave pending an investigation.

They felt "Watts was going to be hostile when they delivered the letter," Porter wrote.

At one point, Watts showed the detective a resignation letter, although Watts did not resign and referred officials to his attorney.

"[Watts] made a statement to me that was odd: He said he mailed letters to all the students" about his resigning, Porter wrote. Officials said they were unaware of any letter being sent to parents.

District spokesman Ben Horsley said parents who have any concerns about Watts' return to the classroom should contact Love-Day, but he noted that measures have been taken to ensure student safety.

"It appears the conduct is largely considered crossing the line of professional standards for conduct," Horsley said. "The district took appropriate action towards those allegations."

rparker@sltrib.com

Twitter: @rayutah —