Jury Decides not to Indict Mitchell

The investigation will go to the Ohio Department of Education, whose decision could differ from that of the court of law.

A Cuyahoga County Grand Jury has decided not to indict social studies teacher Timothy Mitchell on a charge of sexual battery, according to case information available on the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts website.

Mitchell taught AP U.S. History and was the IB Diploma Programme Coordinator when he was placed on paid administrative leave Feb. 21 pending an investigation by law enforcement. On April 12, the grand jury issued a no bill in the case, meaning it will not go to trial.

The case information stated that the alleged conduct occurred June 7, 1995.

Under the heading charges, the case information lists sexual battery and cites statute 2907.03.

Statute 2907.03 states that engaging “in sexual conduct with another” under certain conditions, which you can read here, constitutes sexual battery.

The grand jury disposition does not mark the end of the matter, however. According to Executive Director of Communications Scott Stephens, the district is “mandated to file a report with ODE’s [Ohio Department of Education’s] Office of Professional Conduct for their investigation. This is in addition to and separate from any investigation by law enforcement.”

“What that means,” said Dr. John Morris, English teacher and president of the Shaker Heights Teachers’ Association, “is basically, there’s an Office of Professional Conduct that at the ODE has within the organization, and until that investigation is wrapped up, a teacher physically is not allowed to return to the classroom” until his or her license is no longer in question.

“Sometimes their findings coincide with the court, and sometimes those finding dont coincide with the court,” said Morris. “They have different standards of professionalism that aren’t always based on legal findings.”

“Teachers are sometimes accused of things, sometimes they go through the court and everything’s cleared up, sometimes there is a difference in what a court of law finds and what the ODE finds,” said Morris. “We have seen this happen.”

Morris said that an investigation conducted by a court of law and one conducted by the ODE can be like “apples and oranges.”

“There are issues that the ODE treats more stringently than a court would,” he said. “In other words, if a parent, or a student, or a community member were to lodge a complaint about a teacher, the ODE could investigate and find fault without a court of law finding fault.”

Teachers under investigation by the ODE face a “whole menu of restrictions that can be put on the license. There can be mandatory training, there can be a suspension with a certain time frame, there can be classes. There are a lot of different consequences.”

At worst, a teacher’s license is revoked. At best, the ODE finds no wrongdoing and “the teacher would then have the right to return to full employment, if they were previously employed.

“The teacher returns to a full contract,” said Morris. “That doesn’t necessarily means returning to the same teaching institution.”

In fact, said Morris, “if the court of law found no wrongdoing, if the ODE found no wrongdoing,” refusing to permit a teacher to return to their job would be “a hard argument . . . there’s no real grounds for dismissal.”

“There would be no reason for them to do that,” added Morris.

However, until the ODE’s investigation is finished, Mitchell will remain on leave.

The statement from Stephens suggested that the district is hiring to replace Mitchell for next year.

“Since the outcome of both investigations is still up in the air, and therefore unresolved, we are compelled to move forward with our annual sectioning and staffing plans for the high school,” it stated. “One of our norms as a staff is that we will always work to do that which is best for our students. Up until now, our students have been in limbo, and we cannot continue to have that be the case.”

“We won’t know until it’s over,” said Morris. “This is uncharted territory for us.”

The Shakerite will continue to cover this story as it develops.

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