VENTURA : District Can't Fire Teacher, Panel Rules

A state administrative panel has rejected the Ventura school district's request to fire a special education teacher accused of inappropriately touching and teasing his students.

The three-member panel issued its decision Wednesday, ruling 2-1 that the Ventura Unified School District must keep teacher Bryan Bowman as a full-time employee, return him to his previous position at Blanche Reynolds School and pay his legal costs.

The panel agreed that Bowman had engaged in much of the conduct attributed to him by the district.

That included making sexual comments about other school employees, holding children on his lap for extended periods and calling students "tards,"--a derogatory slang term for the mentally disabled. He also confined one child to her seat by stretching masking tape across her lower body, the panel concluded.

However, two of the three judges on the panel decided that such conduct was not grounds to fire the 39-year-old teacher.

Bowman worked in the Oxnard School District before taking a job at Cabrillo Middle School in Ventura in 1990 and eventually moving to Blanche Reynolds. He received several awards for teaching excellence during his first year in Ventura.

Bowman, who has been on leave without pay since last fall, could not be reached for comment.

But Supt. Joseph Spirito said he will recommend that the school board appeal the state's decision to the Ventura County Superior Court.

"My question is, 'What does it take to dismiss a teacher?' " Spirito said. "It's my opinion that we've proven our case."

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