Two weeks after being sued in federal court by the parents of a former student (identified as “Jane Doe” in court filings), the Frenchtown School District applied to the Missoula County Justice Court for the release of confidential criminal justice information regarding teacher Troy Bashor, who faces misdemeanor sexual assault charges in a separate suit. The federal case against the district and the criminal case against Bashor both stem from a former student’s allegation that she was assaulted by Bashor.
The application says the information contained in the criminal justice file could be relevant to the district’s own investigation of Bashor. It reads, in part, “[the alleged victim] has not provided school officials with specific information to support some of the allegations contained in the criminal proceeding that are relevant to the Applicant School District’s investigation.” This echoes Superintendent Randy Cline’s letter to the Missoulian last spring, in which he wrote that Doe “refused to participate in the [district] investigation, and would not provide any clarifying information to the district.” However, the civil case filed by Doe’s parents says that she was told by law enforcement not to meet with the school again, and that authorities would supply the district with any additional information.
It’s not clear how long the district’s current investigation has been underway, and an attorney at the Kaleva law firm, which represents the district, said he couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation. FSD conducted a Title IX investigation last year after Doe’s initial complaint. That investigation took the district nine days to complete, and resulted in Bashor being suspended for three days at the beginning of last year. He has now been on paid administrative leave for nearly three months since being charged in October 2017.
The school district is facing a difficult situation, says MEA-MFT Field Consultant Dave Severson, whose area includes the Frenchtown schools. “You’ve got the union contract. You’ve got a Title IX investigation the school’s conducting. And then you’ve got the criminal charges, and the civil lawsuit. Four different paths, so it gets pretty complicated,” Severson says.
The terms of the Frenchtown teacher’s contract specifies four escalating stages of disciplinary actions: verbal warning, written reprimand, suspension and termination. Frenchtown is obligated to follow the teacher contract before terminating Bashor’s employment, and it could have reasons for awaiting the outcome of the criminal trial before doing so. Were a school district to fire a teacher facing criminal charges who was later cleared in court, it could risk exposure to a civil case on the part of a potentially wrongfully terminated employee, Severson says. “In that case they would have violated contract, in which case we’d file a grievance, which would lead to arbitration. [The teacher] might also under state law have cause for a suit against the district if they were dismissed and found innocent,” Severson says.
FSD has not yet responded to the federal civil suit. The district has until Jan 24 to do so. Bashor’s next criminal hearing is scheduled for March 2.