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State Panel Says Peggy Buckey Can Resume Teaching

Times Staff Writer

Peggy Ann Buckey, who lost her teaching credential after she was indicted in the McMartin Pre-School molestation case, on Friday won her fight for the right to return to the classroom.

The state Commission on Teacher Credentialing, meeting in Sacramento, voted 7 to 6, with one abstention, to endorse a proposed ruling by an administrative law judge, released Thursday. The judge approved Buckey’s application to teach the deaf and learning-disabled.

The commission’s endorsement becomes effective 30 days after Buckey, 32, and her lawyer, John Wagner, are officially notified of the action. When she receives her certificate, Buckey said she will ask Anaheim Union High School District to reinstate her.

‘She Has a Right’

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“I anticipate they will do their duty,” Wagner said Friday. “She had tenure, and she has a right to go back. If they do not, then I will go to court. She’s entitled to a great deal of back pay. I estimate that it will be more than $100,000. On March 4, she will have been out five years.”

Buckey, reached at her home late Friday, expressed elation at the news she would regain her teaching credential.

“I’m overjoyed,” she said. “I think it’s the greatest news I’ve had in five years. I really wasn’t surprised. With this case, I gave up a long time ago trying to predict what would happen.”

The school district’s attorney, Lee Kellogg, said after Friday’s vote that there has been “no thought” about Buckey’s future, and there will be no discussion until an official notice of the commission decision is received.

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Buckey and seven other McMartin teachers were indicted on child molestation charges in March, 1984. She was suspended pending a resolution of the allegations.

Sought a Credential

When the charges against her were dropped about 18 months later, however, school officials denied Buckey’s request for reinstatement, questioning both her “moral fitness” to teach and whether, in fact, she still had a credential, which they contended had expired.

After failing to get her classroom job back in 1986, Buckey applied to state officials for a credential. She was denied. After filing suit, she won a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Ronald M. Gruen. The hearing lasted nearly three months in Los Angeles.

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In many respects, the proceeding that wound up in November was a mini-version of the 5-year-old McMartin molestation case, in which Peggy Ann’s brother, Raymond Buckey, 30, and mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 61, face 65 counts of molestation and conspiracy.

More than three dozen witnesses testified about reports of child molestation at the now-closed McMartin Pre-School in Manhattan Beach. Peggy Ann Buckey was accused of molesting four former McMartin pupils, who testified behind closed doors, and killing animals as a warning to them not to tell their parents.

Gruen was sharply critical of testimony offered by the state to connect Buckey with the charges, particularly a “pervasive use of leading and suggestive questions” in taped interviews of children who supposedly were victims of molestation.


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