3/24/2014 10:13:00 AM,
Jeff D. Gorman
(CN) - A high school teacher who had sex with a former student in his classroom cannot keep records on his firing from the press, the Washington Court of Appeals ruled.
Riverside School District No. 416 placed teacher Allen Martin on leave in 2011 pending an investigation into his conduct.
The decision notes that the records at issue are sealed, but that the following information has been disclosed to the public.
"Mr. Martin and a consenting adult, who was a former student, engaged in sexual conduct in Mr. Martin's classroom," the opinion states. "As a result of the conduct, the district served Mr. Martin with a notice of probable cause for discharge, RCW 28A.405.300, and a notice of probable cause for nonrenewal."
Seeking information on the investigation and Martin's termination, Jody Lawrence-Turner, a reporter with of The Spokesman-Review, made a public records request to the school district.
Martin sued the district to enjoin the disclosure of the records. He included the newspaper's parent company, The Cowles Publishing Co., as a defendant.
The trial court ruled against Martin, ordering the disclosure of the records to the newspaper.
A three-judge panel with the Washington Court of Appeals noted Tuesday that Martin carried the burden of proof that his privacy had been invaded.
"Even if the disclosure of the information would be offensive to the employee, it shall be disclosed if there is a legitimate or reasonable public interest in the disclosure," Judge Teresa Kulik wrote for the unanimous court.
Martin argued that the former student was a consenting adult and that the incident did not take place while performing a public duty. The appeals court was not convinced.
"Mr. Martin had a sexual encounter on school grounds, with a former student, during a holiday in the school year," Kulik wrote. "The district considered this conduct an inappropriate use of a school facility and a complete disregard for the school environment."
The incident in question, including district's handling of the matter, is also of legitimate public interest. Lawrence-Turner's article
mentioned that Martin taught history and biology, and was a former high school football coach. The former student was 25 years old, according to the article.