“Unwanted” and “Offensive” Touching

by Lou Binninger

The more information is made public about the Jim Whiteaker Yuba City Unified School District sexual assault case the worse it appears. Writer Bob Moffitt with California Public Radio (CPR) obtained a 1998 report from the district through a California Public Records Act request.

Thus far, ladies have accused high school teacher Jim Whiteaker of unwanted sexual advances when they were students. The newly acquired school records give details of reported sexual contact with a student, but also a school employee at her home. The report says Whiteaker engaged in “unwanted” and “offensive” sexual behavior.

The document indicates Whiteaker visited a school employee’s home uninvited to comfort her during a difficult time. He became sexually aroused as he hugged her while running his hand down her side and touching her breast. Whiteaker says the lady initiated the hug.

Whiteaker is also quoted as saying he may have touched her breast accidentally. The school report describes the woman as "big-busted," but does not say whether that was a description of Whiteaker’s or its author, former personnel director Brian Sevier.

Moffitt and CPR’s documents also describe the 1998 incidents that student Andrea Foster reported to school officials, the district and Yuba City Police. She described being touched by Whiteaker on three occasions. Whiteaker denied the accusations saying they weren’t worth commenting on.

Personnel Director Sevier recommended a letter of reprimand be placed in the physical education teacher’s file and that “Whiteaker’s behavior be monitored and that he be provided with appropriate guidance/assistance in the expression of his feelings in more appropriate ways."

Whiteaker has been terminated by the district pending an appeal. Two lawsuits against Whiteaker, Yuba City Unified School District and its leadership have been filed on behalf of students.

Moffitt says state law does not prevent Yuba City or its police department from releasing reports or information on investigations. However, the police department and the city have opposed information requests from victims and the media saying they are not legally compelled to comply. This resistance does not instill confidence in the police or the city in future assault cases.

Recall proponents and others in government believe Clerk/Recorder Donna Johnston looked for a way to slow or block the recall of Jim Whiteaker from his seat on the Sutter County Board of Supervisors. However, Johnston denied this perception last week explaining that recalls are complicated with every detail needing to be exact.

With many recalls occurring throughout the state each year and the steps clearly set forth at the Secretary of State’s (SOS) website it doesn’t look complicated. The SOS is there to assist the election clerks.

Sutter County Counsel Jean Jordan said by email that her interaction with the supervisors and elected officials is confidential when asked if Johnston was inquiring as to whether the recall could be stopped. Some believe that thousands of taxpayer dollars in unnecessary legal research was done for Johnston pertaining to the recall.

A voice mail to County Administrator Scott Mitnick to ask about his knowledge of how the recall was handled received no response. Recall proponents have been circulating another petition to ask the Supervisors to censure and remove Whiteaker from taking an active role on the board.

Politically and practically, Supervisors may be unable to act. Whiteaker’s fate on the Board may have to wait on the recall. His teaching future resides with an appeals board solidly tilted in his favor. He may not return to his classroom but he will likely remain on the government payroll. The attorney for his defense claims neither lawsuit has merit.

There is more to come out, but victims are leery when realizing they are on their own. The city, the police department, and the school system have not been cooperative and accusers are intimidated by Whiteaker.

This 20-year saga of non-action by authority figures should remove any doubt why most victims of sexual assault never come forward.

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