(Editor's note: This story contains obscene language.)
Former Saline High School teacher Mark Messmore, investigated by Saline Area Schools for inappropriate texts and behavior with Saline High students, lost his appeal to the Michigan Tenure Commission and has been fired.
Messmore more taught Spanish, chaired the World Languages Department, and advised the National Honor Society. According to tenure commission documents, Messmore was suspended by school district when officials became aware of allegations. Following an investigation, Superintendent Scot Graden charged Messmore with misconduct, insubordination, misuse of students, record falsification, failure to maintain appropriate standards and violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Administrative Law Judge Chris Saunders sided with the district on the issues of misconduct/unprofessional conduct, privacy violations, insubordination and misused students.
Messmore testified that he was attempting to relate to the students. Judge Saunders wrote that Messmore’s action went much further.
“Attempting to relate to one's students is an admirable notion, and one that could potentially help students in the academic environment. However, there is a difference between attempting to relate to a student and acting like one in a social context,” Judge Saunders wrote. “Above all, the teacher is still a teacher and the students are the pupils thereof. This is a line that must be acknowledged, respected, and abided by at all times. Petitioner/Appellant's actions simply shattered that line.”
According to commission documents, two teachers approached former Saline High School principal Dr. Julie Helber in November of 2015 with concerns Messmore was texting students about things unrelated to school. After discussing the allegations with Messmore, Helber received a communication from the mother of a student Messmore texted. Helber called the student to her office and inspected the phone, finding several texts she later testified were not appropriate. After viewing the texts, Helber contacted Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Curt Ellis and union president Tim Timoszyk. Messmore was placed on paid non-disciplinary leave while an investigation was conducted.
Messmore engaged in texts with several students. He began texting one of the students when she was a 14-year-old in ninth grade. The first text came at 11:16 p.m. on a Friday night. When the student asked who it was, he asked her to guess. The "guess who" game went on for an hour until he revealed his identity, according to the commission documents. She also testified she received credit for an assignment she did not complete.
Several texts to students criticized the appearance of female students.
“Dude (she) is fucking disgusting seriously?”
Another text to a student questioned the sexual behavior of another student.
"Is she a slut?? Lol I didn't peg her for that. (One student) definitely. Lol not (another student) tho."
When the student replied that the girl in question was merely “playing” a boy, Messmore’s response was:
“Well that’s not as fun lol.”
Judge Saunders criticized Messmore’s behavior.
“Such a comment being made by a teacher to a student is simply repugnant and should never be tolerated nor should any comments made by a teacher to a student which contain such sexual undertones,” Saunders wrote.
Judge Saunders wrote that Messmore was “extremely unfair” to another student he texted. In one text to a student, Messmore wrote that a fellow teacher was a “crazy bitch” who disparaged him and another teacher. Messmore texted the student with a request.
“So stick up for me. And/or take videos of her talking shit."
Judge Saunders wrote that such a request undermines the student/teacher relationship and goes beyond what is appropriate to discuss between teachers and students.
Several students testified that the texts and behavior made them feel weird and/or uncomfortable.
Other charges included:
- Storing an eight-inch blade in his classroom. The knife was used to cut cakes for National Honor Society events, Messmore said. Graden said the knife was is in violation of the district’s policy about possessing dangerous weapons on school property and Judge Saunders agreed.
- Pornographic images found in the cache of Messmore’s personal computer, which he used in class instead of a school-issued device. There was no evidence suggesting he presented the images to anyone, or that he downloaded the images at school. Messmore said he did not download or save the images, but that they were automatically downloaded when viewing a streamed video. Bringing the images to school was deemed by Judge Saunders to be misconduct.
- Having students retrieve items from his car during class was viewed by Judge Saunders as “misuse of students.”
- Allowing students to enter grades into his computer was deemed a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
- Swearing in class.
Messmore was hired by Saline Area Schools in 2009.