Small Schools, Big Secret: Predatory Teacher Worked 30 Years : Molestations: Many townspeople are not surprised. Some believe that two generations of boys were victimized.

ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

In a town of 1,400 people, word has a way of getting around.

Some here now say it was widely known for years that Douglas Marks was molesting his male students, but no one did anything about it.

What allowed him to get away with it for three decades? A reputation as a devoted teacher? People's reluctance to believe such allegations? The youngsters' reluctance to tell? Respect for Marks' wealthy family?

School board chairman David Rieder has dissected each theory and concluded that he just doesn't know the answer.

"It was fairly common knowledge of his sexual preference," said Rieder, a rancher who has known Marks all his life. "With all the psychological problems Doug had . . . for some reason, these red flags went unheeded.

"I think there's a tendency for everyone to submerge these bad thoughts. I think people tend not to want to deal with the darker side of life--and I include myself in that."

Boulder's loosely kept secret became public in February, when Marks, 63, was charged with molesting four of his students between 1985 and 1989.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced Nov. 14 to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay $25,000 for his young victims' counseling.

Richard Llewellyn, the county attorney, said he knows that Marks molested at least 45 students, including the sons of some of those he attacked. Others here say it is likely that Marks molested several hundred boys over 30 years.

All the boys didn't remain silent, however.

"We know now that they told some people," Rieder said.

The school board has hired two investigators to find out whether teachers, principals or counselors failed to protect students.

It was Dr. Phillip Pallister, the physician who had forced the school board to oust Marks from the high school for molesting three students in 1959, who forced officials to investigate again, 30 years later.

He also helped Marks get another teaching job in 1960 at nearby Clancy--where officials say that four or five boys may have been molested. Pallister also encouraged the Boulder School Board to rehire Marks as an elementary school teacher in 1965.

"I thought of him as a homosexual then, not as a pedophile," Pallister said. He called his decision a terrible mistake.

Paul Myrhow, now 24, said he first was molested by Marks in a school restroom in 1980 after a seventh-grade sex education class Marks had volunteered to teach. Their relationship continued for years.

Myrhow blew the whistle twice, first in 1985, when he approached Daryl Craft, a longtime friend who had become a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy.

Craft did not doubt his story because he, too, had been molested by Marks.

"In my graduating class, more than half were victims," said Craft, who was graduated in 1973 with 12 to 14 other boys. "If Paul hadn't come forward, I don't have any doubt that Doug would still be doing the same thing."

Marks did do the same thing--for five more years. All four of the offenses to which he pleaded guilty in July occurred after Myrhow first reported him.

Craft referred Myrhow to Sheriff Tom Dawson, who later told the deputy that he was having trouble locating victims and witnesses Myrhow had named. Pallister said he knows the sheriff investigated, but no charge was filed, and Marks continued to teach.

The sheriff won't talk about it.

Myrhow said he believes Marks molested boys in every class, every year, but they apparently never told one another.

"Sometimes, I think, he would be molesting every male in his class, and sometimes only one or two," Myrhow said.

Marks began "recruiting" boys in elementary grades by touching and petting, then arranged to take them on school trips in the seventh or eighth grades, Myrhow said.

"He'd usually take three kids, because if you had two double beds one would get stuck with sleeping with him."

Myrhow says he is certain that townspeople knew what was going on.

At a bar that Marks favored, Myrhow said, "Doug would come in for a sandwich and when he left, people would joke about who he was taking on trips this year."

Llewellyn said he doubts the molestation was widely known in this Rocky Mountain ranching and mining town. Some of the boys told him their parents did not believe their stories, and some said they did not tell their parents.

"Some tried to tell some school people, but the message oftentimes was missed," Llewellyn said. "Some of the victims apparently were trying to tell people for some time."

Myrhow persisted. In June, 1989, he made his second effort to expose Marks. This time, he went to Pallister.

Pallister took Myrhow to Llewellyn, who asked the state attorney general's office for help. But when school opened Marks still was teaching, and Pallister found that none of the victims Myrhow had identified had been contacted.

Pressed by Pallister, Llewellyn hired his own investigator in December. Within two months, there was enough evidence to file charges.

As a teacher, there's no doubt that Marks was widely admired. He quietly donated part of his salary to the school each year, spent vacations painting the school, and bought shoes for needy students. Two sections of the high school were dedicated to him. Wall plaques, quietly removed after his guilty plea, extolled "his years of service to the community."

But eyebrows were raised over the fact that Marks lived in the elementary school except on weekends. He sleeping on a cot in the nurse's room.

"That bothered me," Rieder said, "but I didn't do anything."

Though some people still strongly defend him, Rieder said that Marks always had his detractors.

"There were people who wanted him out of there," Rieder said. "There was a lot of anger, things under the surface. I was hoping Doug would resign for several years.

"I'm tired of hearing he was such a good teacher that it justifies anything. He was harming kids in ways other than the sexual molesting--psychological abuse."

Lillian Larson, a substitute teacher, graduated from high school with Marks in 1944. She fears the good he did will be forgotten. Larson does not dispute that he is guilty, though she says many of the offenses were "patting and pinching" and have been overblown by the news media.

"I don't know how to tell you how I feel about it," she said. "Guilty is guilty. It's just that I feel sorry for him. He's my friend."

Why did it take 30 years to stop Marks?

"I don't think the system failed," said former school board chairman Jan Anderson. "It worked just right." Marks is out of the classroom at last, and that's the important thing, she said.

It will be four years before Marks is eligible for parole; one condition imposed by the sentencing judge would prohibit him from having contact with anyone younger than 18.

The long-term effects on his victims--and on the town of Boulder--remain to be seen.

The school board has set aside an initial fund of $3,000 for students who request counseling, and some have responded, Rieder said.

"I think, in the long run, we're going to be a community where any kind of abuse--sexual or otherwise--simply is not going to happen again," he said.

"I guess we'll never know the full extent of it. I guess that's part of the shock of it."

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