Jenkins resigns from Washougal High School

Math teacher had been under investigation by district for ‘inappropriate’ touching

Math teacher Jay Jenkins has resigned from Washougal High School.

The School Board accepted his resignation, effective at the end of the school year, at a special meeting on Thursday.

This came about after a flurry of publicity about Jenkins’ allegedly touching students inappropriately during instructional time. The reported incidents dated back to 2008.

During the last month, three female students have filed tort claims against the district, alleging that it failed to protect them from Jenkins.

Jenkins released the following statement about his resignation through his Portland attorney, Margaret Olney.

“I have resigned from the Washougal School District effective at the end of the year. I had already been thinking of leaving the classroom to pursue other endeavors, since I have been teaching and coaching for over thirty years. I chose to leave now because of the claims made against me.

“While I steadfastly deny any intentional wrongdoing, my students and family have always been my highest priority, and I want to limit the stress and distraction for all involved. I love teaching and the Washougal community, and I appreciate the support of students, parents, colleagues, friends and family.”

On Friday, Feb. 21, three female students told a school counselor and administrator that Jenkins had touched them during instructional time in math classes.

One said Jenkins wrapped his hand around her waist and touched her hip, another said he put his hands on her shoulders “a couple times,” until she told him to stop. The third student said Jenkins regularly pats her on the shoulder and rests his hand on her arm.

One student withdrew from his class, citing that she felt “creeped out,” by his physical contact. Another said she felt a knot in her stomach and did not want to ask questions for fear of being touched.

Jenkins was immediately placed on paid administrative leave. A week-long investigation by the School District began. The conclusion was that Jenkins frequently touches both male and female students during class times. Not all students said they were bothered by the touching.

In addition, the physical contact, while considered not sexual in nature, was deemed to be “inappropriate, an invasion of the students’ personal boundaries, and something that needs to stop and not be repeated,” according to a Feb. 28 letter to District Superintendent Dawn Tarzian from WHS Principal Aaron Hansen.

Josephine Townsend, the Vancouver attorney representing the students who filed tort claims, released this statement.

“I believe that Mr. Jenkins should have been terminated when he first was confronted about touching female students. While progressive discipline is appropriate in most cases, there is some behavior that does not follow this paradigm. When a teacher, in a position of authority, repeatedly and without permission, puts their hands on students, they do not belong in that environment.

“Boundaries exist for concrete reasons,” she added. “It is unfortunate that so many victims had to bear the brunt of his behavior. The tort claims remain open and we will work with the school district to negotiate an outcome if that is possible.”

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