A Benton County judge on Friday refused to order a Kennewick teaching assistant to permanently avoid a 13-year-old boy.
District Court Judge Katy Butler ruled there was insufficient evidence of unlawful harassment by the woman.
The boy’s parents filed for an anti-harassment protection order in May, claiming the woman had developed too close of a relationship with the teen at Chinook Middle School.
Another judge granted a temporary order that required the woman to stay 250 feet from the student and his home. Friday’s hearing was to determine if the order should be permanent for at least one year.
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The woman was with Kennewick School District for five years, working as a library assistant and paraeducator for special needs students.
Since she had to keep her distance from the boy, she was forced to leave her job at the middle school and was transferred to the district administrative office, said her attorney, Megan Whitmire of Kennewick.
Whitmire said Butler made the right decision in denying the parents’ request.
My client went from enjoying working with children because she was good at it, to not wanting to work with children again because this is terrifying.
Megan Whitmire, attorney
She said the judge reviewed text messages between the boy’s mother and her client, “which pretty clearly established they were friends outside of school” and that the woman was helping the boy. One exchange discussed the educator giving rides to the teen and his sister, and the mother saying she was happy the woman was in her their lives, she said.
The woman has been humiliated and embarrassed, and feels like her life has been destroyed by these allegations, Whitmire said. She is considering leaving education.
“My client went from enjoying working with children because she was good at it, to not wanting to work with children again because this is terrifying,” Whitmire told the Herald. “This situation just goes to show you it’s risky to work with kids anymore if people are going to be throwing out accusations … wreaking havoc on you.”
Lawyer Scott Johnson, who represents the parents, said their fight for a protection order didn’t end Friday.
He plans to appeal Butler’s ruling to Benton County Superior Court. He asked for another temporary order in the interim, but Butler also denied that request.
We’re disappointed with the judge’s decision that didn’t protect this kid, the Kennewick School District that didn’t protect the kid and engaged in a coverup, and the fact that they kept this individual employed around other kids is just shocking.
Scott Johnson, attorney
“We’re disappointed with the judge’s decision that didn’t protect this kid, the Kennewick School District that didn’t protect the kid and engaged in a coverup, and the fact that they kept this individual employed around other kids is just shocking,” Johnson said.
“Another staff member reported her for inappropriate behavior with my client, the principal admonished her to stop and she kept right on engaging in the conduct. That’s extremely troubling,” he said.
He added that he would describe the mother and the educator’s relationship as friendly, but they weren’t quite friends.
The boy’s mother made the protection order request after her son commented on the guilty plea of another Kennewick teacher, who admitted sending nude photos and videos of herself to four students and raping one of them.
The mother reportedly became concerned when her son said “no one was going to stop him from being friends” with one of his teachers and that he wanted to be adopted by her.
The parents claimed that the teen had been to her home to work on a computer, that he eats lunch alone with her and that she shares details about her family’s finances and medical issues. The mother met with Kennewick police, who determined no crime was committed.