PIEDMONT, Calif. (Rob Malcom/KTVU) - In a packed Piedmont City Hall on Wednesday night, parents confronted the school board over a veteran teacher who they feel acted inappropriately toward students, some wearing pink and carrying signs with the hashtag #MeToo.
The controversy surrounds Piedmont High School social studies teacher Mark Cowherd, accused of years of inappropriate behavior with students in the classroom and on school trips: A touch on the elbow, texting special nicknames. “Who asks students if they will sleep with him while he doles out their grades?” asked a mother at the meeting. “He is not a hero, not a champion and should not be a guardian to them.”
Some recent graduates filed a complaint and the school district agreed with their allegations, though they found no criminal wrongdoing and he was not fired.
“We do have a case of inappropriate and un professional from a teacher and that's what our investigation showed as well," said Piedmont Unified Superintendent Randall Booker.
Cowherd’s discipline lasted three weeks on administrative leave and then he was welcomed back into the classroom.
That didn’t satisfy many of the parents in the room.
"I believe the board has made an egregious decision by allowing Mr. Cowherd back into classroom,” parent Lisa Shepherd said at the meeting. “And I think you should all reconsider the decision you made.”
But Booker said that Cowherd was given is due process. “What I can say is that there was no evidence of sexual abuse, no crime was committed. The police closed their investigation no crime was reported.”
Calling this a personnel matter, the district claimed although the teacher is back he was given strict guidelines to curtail his behavior. Booker said he couldn't say much more because of California law.
But one mother told KTVU that she wishes the law was more protective of the students. “The message that is being sent is, ‘You know what? Wink. Nod. It was just a little playing around,’ and I think that's wrong and we need to protect our kids.”