Judge rules East Valley teacher gets to keep job

YAKIMA -- Michele Taylor will keep her East Valley teaching job under a ruling released this week by an administrative law judge.

The school district had tried to fire the 32-year-old physical education teacher, who was acquitted in June of criminal charges of having sex with a 16-year-old student and sending sexual messages to him and a 15-year-old boy.

District officials said they haven't decided whether to appeal.

Taylor said she was advised by her attorney not to talk to the media at this time.

Despite her criminal acquittal, Taylor has remained on paid administrative leave, and her employment status has remained in question pending an administrative hearing.

Taylor appealed the termination, contending she did nothing inappropriate in trying to help the boys with academic and personal concerns during conversations conducted mostly via text messaging.

Patterson said a return-to-work date for Taylor has not been set.

Taylor's family has deep ties to the district. She and her husband, Kevin, an East Valley physical education teacher, graduated from the district, and their children are enrolled there.

Yakima attorney Blaine Tamaki, who previously announced his intent to file a civil lawsuit on behalf of the two teenage boys, said: "It'll be up to the families to decide if they want to pursue this matter civilly."

Taylor has worked for the district for five years -- since 2004 -- before Yakima County Sheriff's detectives launched their investigation in June 2009.