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MailTribune.com
  • Agency dismisses sex abuse complaint against Heller

    No criminal charges ever filed, but civil case remains
  • Oregon's licensing agency for teachers has dismissed a complaint against former Little Butte teacher and counselor Joel Heller that alleged he molested students while working in the Eagle Point School District.
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  • Oregon's licensing agency for teachers has dismissed a complaint against former Little Butte teacher and counselor Joel Heller that alleged he molested students while working in the Eagle Point School District.
    No criminal charges have ever been filed against Heller, who has consistently maintained his innocence, said his attorney, Brett Mersereau.
    "Three different law enforcement agencies (including the Jackson County District Attorney's Office) reviewed the case and declined to file charges," Mersereau said.
    The TSPC dismissed the complaint against Heller because it was "unable to find sufficient cause to charge the educator with misconduct pursuant to Oregon statutes," according to a letter from Victoria Chamberlain, TSPC executive director.
    Heller, along with Mae Richardson Elementary Principal Lynn Scott, Eagle Point schools Superintendent Cynda Rickert and the Eagle Point School District remain codefendants in a federal civil suit filed by Medford attorney Tom Petersen alleging Heller molested two young girls in his classroom in fall 2011. The suit also alleges that school administrators knew Heller had a pattern of abusive behavior and failed to protect the students.
    Petersen filed the civil suit in U.S. District Court in Medford in December 2012 on behalf of two unidentified girls who allege that Heller repeatedly restrained and molested them during class and recess time in 2011. Petersen also filed a complaint with the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission against the defendants on behalf of his clients.
    The TSPC received the complaint on Feb. 28, performed its investigation and on Nov. 8 reviewed the findings.
    The agency dismissed the allegations against Scott earlier this month. Scott was the principal of Hillside Elementary School, formerly known as Little Butte Elementary, in the Eagle Point School District at the time of the alleged incidents.
    The status of the investigations against Rickert and the district are unknown. A call to Rickert was not immediately returned late Monday.
    Because the cases against Heller and Scott were dismissed, Chamberlain said the documents, reports and findings of the investigation will remain confidential.
    U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark D. Clarke in October ordered the release of Scott, Rickert and Heller's personnel files in the ongoing civil case. However, Clarke has placed a gag order on the information.
    Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.
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